Angela Auclair's Reviews > A House in the Sky

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
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it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read August 16, 2013.

In August, five years ago, Canadian Amanda Lindhout was kidnapped with Australian Nigel Brennan in Somalia, as they traveled, writing and taking photos of their experiences.

In August, five years ago, I had just had Alex and was spending most of my nights awake, in a bleary, exhausted post partum haze and began following Amanda’s story. Late at night, I would search the internet for updates, hoping for good news, reading blogs that claimed to have answers as to where she was and wonder how on earth she would survive in such a desperate place. Amanda, prior to her kidnapping, was living a life that I found terribly appealing – travel, writing, adventuring…and then to have it snatched from her like that was heartbreaking. Her story would not leave me.

459 days after that day in August, Amanda and Nigel were freed. I celebrated with a glass of wine that night, willing that Amanda would be okay. Freedom finally, but what kind of survivor would it take to overcome the days and lifetime lost in captivity?

This August, in a serendipitous moment, I won an advance copy of Amanda’s book, ‘A House in the Sky‘, written with Sara Corbett, from goodreads. I actually took a breath before opening it.

See, Amanda, upon her return, did not disappear into the shadows. She took her experience and decided to create change that would directly impact the lives of the very community and country that so changed hers. Far from spewing hatred towards her captors, Amanda took a road of forgiveness ( admittedly not an easy one ), recognizing that her captors were born into the violence they inflicted on her and that no good could come of any of her suffering and loss if nothing changed.

Amanda, months after returning home, founded the Global Enrichment Foundation. Originally focusing on educational initiatives for women in Somalia, this foundation continues to create development and aid in Somalia and Kenya to this day.

This is the background that I had, upon opening ‘A House in the Sky‘. I think I anticipated a harrowing account of her time, with well chosen words but with things left unsaid. Perhaps that is what I had hoped for, because sometimes not knowing grants you a certain permission to not feel as deeply as you should.

What I fell into immediately was the honest and raw story of a woman and her family. From the opening chapter, Amanda threw away any pretense of dancing around her life and how she ended up where she did and, ultimately, where she is today. Her story details the depths of loyalty and love and how you survive when both are challenged in ways you think unimaginable. And when the unimaginable becomes the reality, how Amanda finds the way to keep her mind and self intact is a testament to the strength of women in turmoil and desperate times everywhere. The idea that there is a house in the sky for every person, a place so filled with love that it’s non reality overshadows and envelopes the sadness and pain of a reality is beautiful. What drove Amanda into the rooms and hallways of that house in the sky will leave you shaking and angry.

I thought I knew Amanda’s story. I saw her speak in Ottawa a few years ago, and actually ran into her in the washroom before her talk. She had just come from an interview, where the interviewer had pushed her on areas of her captivity that she was not sharing at the time, admitting that the event had thrown her a bit and that she needed a minute to regroup. Her honesty and reaction to this unkindness ( my word for what the interviewer did ) but willingness to continue with her talk that evening should have been an indication of the power that this woman has inside her. Amanda went on to move an entire room of people minutes later, speaking candidly and with a raw hopefulness that astounded me.

This raw voice of hers is found in ‘A House in the Sky‘. And it is powerful. No detail of her captivity is left wanting…you can smell and taste the rooms where they were held, you can feel the pages of the books she turns. Amanda writes about a woman in her book, a stranger who fought for Amanda with no thought for her own safety, acting with the understanding that to not act would have been such a great wrong, that the sisterhood they shared, even as strangers, was valuable and undeniable. You can see her eyes. Amanda honours this woman with her foundation, hoping that kindness and education ( and aid and development ) will somehow shift the terrible situation that produced the terror Amanda lived. And survived.

There is so much more here, in this book. Friendship, love, choices, determination, self worth, the drive to survive is all bound up in a terrifying but ultimately freeing story. And that it was and is real? Experienced by a 27 year old Canadian woman? Almost unimaginable.

Go anywhere. Fall in love. Make mistakes. Be kind. Forgive. Know that you are strong enough. Make change. Be hopeful. These are the thoughts I am left with, after closing the book. There are others of course – the baseness of human brutality, cultural realities that scare me, how governments work in our lives, the role of women in society, the feeling that there is so much work to be done in so many places. In all this, Amanda leaves her readers with hope, hope for change and hope that despite what she has been through that life holds for her so much more yet.

I have never written a book review before. I hope that I have not held back too much on the story that Amanda and Sara have shared. Many details can be found on the internet and in newspaper clippings, but the depth of what this woman has survived should be experienced. Many of you have followed this story for years, with me. Know that the full story only moves you more deeply.

‘A House in the Sky‘ will be released on September 3rd, 2013.

( full review, with links, here - )
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Reading Progress

June 4, 2013 – Shelved (Other Hardcover Edition)
June 4, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read (Other Hardcover Edition)
Started Reading (Other Hardcover Edition)
Started Reading
August 16, 2013 – Finished Reading (Other Hardcover Edition)
August 16, 2013 – Finished Reading
August 20, 2013 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Dorothy (new) - added it

Dorothy Noel Wow great review Angela.

Lindalou Excellent review. Rather than providing a summary of the book, which I didn't need, you have articulated so many of the thoughts and feelings I had when I set the book down. It was such a powerful read for me, and I had no one to discuss it I turned to Good Reads to see and share in what others felt regarding this book. Thanks for your perspective. I noticed a few negative reviews which criticized Amanda's choices and her story, but I think they missed the point! This book was well written, thoughtful and provocative. And it has left a what i am sure will be a long-lasting impact on me...exactly what I look for in a good read!
Already, the story is "haunting" me. Not just the horrendous torture and unimaginable terror of her time in captivity, but more so the fact that Amanda has chosen to forgive and try to change things through the Global Enrichment Foundation. What an extraordinary example of humanity Amanda Lindhout provides!

Angela Good review. Thank you

Suzanne Moreau This review captures my feelings about Amanda very well, though I was not following the incident as it happened, I am now ashamed to say. But incidentally, Amanda herself admitted to noticing a hostage taking of an Italian woman, and not appreciating its portent. Which underscore some of the thoughts I offered the negative reviewers in a comment on Paul's negative review - that all of us can do with a little soul searching to see that we all make mistakes, and no one ever deserves the consequences Amanda endured and overcame. Whoever is without guilt be the first to cast a stone. Be honest.

Amelia Why was it written with the other girl? Does anyone know?

Esther A. Vandergugten Good review. I shared a lot of your thoughts on the book.

Rhoda Perron Love your review after having read it myself.

Monica Roulston I really love your revew. You've highlighted the best parts of what this book means to me- namely, an honest account of her mindset throughout captivity, and the way that she's taken us through these mistakes and terrible experiences to bring a new light to the pain of her experience.

I as well had the chance to meet her and hear her speak. She is a courageous person on a mission to bring undersanding and positivity.

Angela Auclair Thank you:)

Monica wrote: "I really love your revew. You've highlighted the best parts of what this book means to me- namely, an honest account of her mindset throughout captivity, and the way that she's taken us through th..."

Angela Auclair Thank you:)

Rhoda wrote: "Love your review after having read it myself."

Angela Auclair Thanks so much.

Esther wrote: "Good review. I shared a lot of your thoughts on the book."

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