I listened to this on audio, and while I was riveted by Elizabeth Smart's story and the horror that she endured, I have to agree with others who admit...moreI listened to this on audio, and while I was riveted by Elizabeth Smart's story and the horror that she endured, I have to agree with others who admit to having problems with the book itself.
The audio is narrated by Elizabeth Smart herself, who very often took a sarcastic tone when reading parts where her disgust and disdain for Mitchell and Barzee were obvious. While I have no doubt that she did have sarcastic thoughts, the tone gave her the feeling of an irritated teenager rather than an abused kidnap victim. It was almost as if, in her overzealous effort to assure readers that she never developed Stockholm syndrome or ever had any positive feelings at all for her captors, she's allowing her grown-up self to interject a higher level of disdain than I can imagine her teen captive self would have felt free to express without fear of retribution.
Too, I became very frustrated by Smart's constant suggestions of abuse and horror only to be followed by a complete lack of detail. Not that I expected a prurient description of the degrading things she was forced to endure, but it does no good to say simply that Mitchell "described a disgusting act" without any context. The spectrum of "disgusting acts" is pretty broad. Or another example - she states that when she tried to escape once, she was severely chastised to such a degree she wasn't willing to risk it again. In my mind, a severe scolding doesn't seem so dis-incentivising. What, exactly, had her punishment been? She talks about how Barzee treated her like a slave, but she doesn't mention what that meant. Did she have to do all of the work in camp, and if so, what was there to do? They lived in filth and Mitchell would never have let her go off on her own to get water or food, so how was she treated like a slave? Details like that would have better fleshed out her story and helped to paint a clearer picture of what she went through. If she truly wanted to express her real experience, she chose to leave far too much in the dark.
And while I know that this is strictly Elizabeth Smart's story and she stated up front that she had no desire to ever understand what drove either Mitchell or Barzee to commit their twisted evil crimes, there were parts of the story that could have benefited from objective, pscyhological input. For example, at one point it appears that Mitchell has abandoned Barzee and Smart, leaving them to starve to death in their camp. While Smart re-iterates ad nauseum why she never felt capable of trying to escape even when Mitchell had left the camp, I kept wondering why the adult Barzee would remain there without food for that long. We get no insight as to her actions at all.
One thing that I found strange - Smart was taken when she was fourteen, turning fifteen while in captivity. Many, many times she describes herself as a "little girl", giving this fact as a key reason for her absolute submission to Mitchell and belief in his ability to kill her entire family should she try to escape, thus her inability to speak up when the chances of rescue were within reach. I am the mother of a fifteen year old girl, and I would never consider her "little". When I hear the phrase "little girl" I see a six or seven year old, or even a ten or eleven year old. I think this means that at the time of her kidnapping, Elizabeth must have been relatively immature or extremely sheltered to view herself as so much younger than a person in their teens would be. NOT that I am saying she didn't truly believe her life was in danger and wasn't in constant fear and thus had good reasons for her actions, just that I needed some more backstory to correlate her reactions with her chronological age since they seem a bit shifted to me.
For those who know nothing or very little about the Elizabeth Smart case - I vaguely remembered the news stories but never paid attention to the story once she'd been rescued and didn't know anything about the trials - this is an informative way to learn the story. However, after listening to the book, I don't exactly feel like I got the behind-the-scenes truth about what she went through.(less)