Home > Genre, memoir, nonfiction > Book Review: A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Book Review: A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Picture of Jaycee at the age of 11.Summary:
On June 10, 1991, eleven year old Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted from her school bus stop by Phillip and Nancy Garrido with the aid of a stun-gun.  Jaycee was locked up in a backyard compound and repeatedly raped and abused by Phillip in a bid to satisfy his pedophilia.  Over the course of her 18 year captivity, Jaycee gave birth to two daughters in the compound.  Eventually with her increasing age, the sexual assaults stopped, but she was still held captive.  Finally, on August 26, 2009, Phillip brought Jaycee and her daughters with him to the parole office in an attempt to explain away why he was spotted in public with the two girls.  Jaycee, who hadn’t been allowed to speak her name for 18 years, was able to write it down for the police.  This is the memoir of her experience and gradual recovery from the captivity.

Jaycee wrote this memoir without the assistance of a ghost writer, something very uncommon in memoirs by victims of abduction.  She states in the beginning that her way of remembering things is a bit off because of the trauma, but that her way of telling her story will provide a genuine experience for the reader to truly see how the abduction affected her.  She is correct that the memoir is not set up in a traditional way, but this tends to make for stronger books when discussing something as painful as this.  It reminds me a bit of the very non-traditional story-telling methods used in another memoir When Rabbit Howls.  Eliminating the ghost writer and letting the victim speak grants us, the readers, the opportunity to truly connect with a survivor.  I humbly thank Jaycee for her bravery in this.

Most of the chapters start with Jaycee remembering the events from the perspective of her younger self.  This absolutely makes scenes such as her first molestation by Phillip incredibly haunting.  She then ends each chapter with a reflection from her adult, free perspective on the past.  This structure is unique, but it provides an interesting perspective, showing both Jaycee the victim and Jaycee the survivor.  Toward the end of the book this structure is lost a bit as we suddenly are shown many pages from the journal Jaycee carefully kept in captivity, as well as talking in a more present manner about the therapy she’s been going through.  Her therapist sounds truly remarkable.  She uses horses to help the survivors deal with problems, which seems to work incredibly well for Jaycee who often only had animals around to talk to during her 18 year ordeal.

Although Jaycee does recount her abuse and manipulation at the hands of Phillip, that is not at all what stands out in this memoir.  What comes across is what a strong, sensitive, caring woman Jaycee is.  She is not lost in woe is me.  She does not even think she has it the worst of anyone in the world.  The one thing she repeatedly states she’s learned is that she was not assertive enough as a little girl, and that personality trait backfired on her repeatedly throughout the ordeal.  She states that she sees this as the reason abuse of all kinds are able to go on, because people don’t speak up.

There are moments in which all of us need to have a backbone and feel that we have the right to say no to adults if we believe they are doing the wrong thing. You must find your voice and not be afraid to speak up. (page 143)

This message of “speak up” is stated repeatedly throughout the book and leaves the reader feeling empowered rather than downtrodden at such a tale.  If Jaycee could live through such a situation and come out of it stronger and as an advocate for victims and survivors of abuse to speak up, how can any of us do any less?

I recommend this book to those who enjoy memoirs and survival stories and can handle scenes of a disturbing nature.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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  1. debra
    September 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    I have a lot of concern for Jaycee and her daughters that this memoir came out too soon. It is honest and absolutely heart-wrenching, but I suspect after a great deal of therapy (which I hope they are all getting) she might have a very different story to tell. She has had no time to process, to go through the grief… and the rage…that surely accompanies this kind of horror, and to come out the other side of that. One does not emerge after this kind of 18 year ordeal happy and whole – the immense pain of real healing very well may be ahead for her, and I hope she gets an astonishing amount of love and support, and has a rich and wonderful life.

    • September 11, 2011 at 9:56 pm

      I was certainly surprised at how quickly it came out, particularly as the time-line became more evident when I was reading it. However, I do not venture to tell her that she is not as happy and healed as she believes she is. Sometimes it takes telling yourself you’re ok just to be ok. I am definitely confident from reading the passages about her current therapy that she and her daughters are in excellent hands. The therapist seems very well-educated about rehabilitating those who were kidnapped and/or suffered wrongful imprisonment.

      • hailey
        December 28, 2015 at 7:16 pm

        could you email me : haiigxo@gmail.com and help me with a book report on this book, you seem to know more about this and must’ve absorbed more information than I did while reading. your help would be greatly appreciated 🙂

      • December 29, 2015 at 12:33 am

        Hi Hailey,
        While I appreciate the fact that you have found my book blog helpful (and I do hope you cite me properly if you reference anything I said in your book report), it is not really my place nor do I have the time to assist you with your book report. I would suggest if you are struggling with reading comprehension or writing book reports to seek out your teacher or school librarian and ask him or her for assistance or perhaps seek out some in person tutoring. Best of luck!

  2. February 19, 2012 at 5:50 am

    What makes this particularly harrowing and tragic. Is that ‘TIME’ was stolen from her. Her schooldays. Trips. Birthdays. College. Graduation. First dance and first kiss. Watching her baby sis grow up having all the fun as sisters. Getting married. Having a baby, and sharing that joy with her family. As humans- that is all we have. Memories. Lookng back. At pictures, etc etc. He stole her life, and for that, those trailer trash pieces of *&%^@% should be boiled alive. She was someone else’s kid, not his, to steal off the streets. I hope every day is a nightmare for him. Every DAY!!!

    • February 19, 2012 at 8:36 am

      I completely agree. I think a problem in our culture at large is a complete lack of respect for other people’s individuality and right to using their life how they see fit. Obviously, Jaycee’s kidnapper took this to the complete *extreme* but itis a problem in general.

  3. hasell
    December 2, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    this book is really good her life story is really sad wow i dont know how jaycee dugard survive that jail cell with that monster philip garrido and his wife nancy .

  1. October 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

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