Author: Jaycee Dugard
Review by: Brooke Alewel
*Contains Mature Themes: Drug use, sexual content, and violence.
Jaycce Dugard’s, A Stolen Life, explores her tragedy-prone childhood, in the hands of her kidnapper. The autobiography evokes emotions out of the reader and reveals the true meaning of being free. She formats the novel as chapters and reflections. This helps the reader identify the significance of her life now, and how the sudden changes of lifestyle were able to whirl Dugard into the arms of her kidnappers.
(Backyard where Jaycee was kept)
The autobiography is set the morning of her kidnapping, as she is leaving for school. The reader is shown a glimpse of her home life, which is not too short from an average American household. However, on the way to school, Dugard meets the soon-to-be kidnapper. Within minutes, he was able to shoot her with a stun gun and load her into a car against her will. This chapter evoked a sense of sympathy and wonder from the readers, as we only see and know what Jaycee herself sees and knows. Throughout her years of captivity, Dugard is exposed to abuse, rape, and drug usage. Only being eleven (to the age of twenty-nine), she is forced to grow up and live her life through the lens of her kidnappers. Being held in a tool shed in a backyard, the only things Jaycee can occupy herself are her inner thoughts. This is responsible for the resentment she has towards her mother, and the fear she is struck with towers. One remarkable thing about her story, is how she was able to stay content, even throughout the turbulent eighteen years of captivity. She played her kidnappers games and realized just how much she had been free before. Almost like some psychological warfare, Jaycee soon came to learn how dependent she is on these people.
(Phillip and Nancy Garrido)
The novel’s structure is something worth reflecting on. After each chapter, Dugard writes a personal letter to the reader about the mental infliction her time in the shed has caused. It allows the reader to feel more comfortable about the main contents of the book, by tying everything together in a seemingly, good ending. One of these reflections is about her daughters first school day. She was feeling a sense of jealousy and happiness. Her jealousy was centered around the fact that she didn’t attend school past grade five. She missed out on high school, and when her kids got to go, she was internally distraught. The reflections have a way of comforting the reader in the dark parts of the book, and they help Dugard come to terms with the past.
The book was detailed and full of emotions. I must admit, I wasn’t excited about reading it, but it was a page turner. The actions about her kidnappers promote the reader to think about the world around them and make them question who they are close to. The structure of the novel keeps the readers attentive, as the use of pictures, journal entries, and imagery keeps them with eyes glued to the book. I would recommend this read for anyone who wants to have that chill down their spine, but I advise you that the novel includes some mature themes for some readers. Hopefully other readers are able to connect to this autobiography the same way I could.