A “This book destroyed me” Book Review: A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett

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I have no words that will adequately describe how this book made me feel – is still making me feel. It’s the third book to ever make me cry (during my early morning commute on a busy Toronto subway no less). This book was… this book was… was… see? I’m at a loss for words.

A House in the Sky is a memoir, a terribly real story about Canadian travel enthusiast and journalist, Amanda Lindhout, full of violence, chilling suspense, and compassion. The story recounts details of her rough childhood growing up in a small Alberta town, follows her young adult years spent waitressing and travelling to the remote corners of the world, and in 2008, her eventual kidnapping in Somalia, where she is held hostage for a harrowing 460 days. The first pages, which describe Lindhout’s earlier years, paint the picture of a curious, if not naïve young woman, who wants nothing more than to see the world and maybe even make it as a successful freelance journalist. Of course, the story takes a much darker turn following Lindhout’s capture, but it is one that also holds remarkable power. Lindhout, with co-author Sara Corbett, weave a story that is both beautiful and brutally honest, and definitely unforgettable.

It was a lesson the world had already taught me and was teaching me still. You don’t know what’s possible until you actually see it.

The writing in this book is exquisite. Both the style and the narrative itself are uncharacteristically honest. Frankness, would be a word I’d use to describe it. There is no self-pity, rage, hatred or narcissism; instead you get the sense that Lindhout is recounting her story from a place of clarity, or even understanding and forgiveness. The violence was handled with care, in a way that is very real, but not overly vehement. However, there were moments that I found incredibly hard to read, where I had to put the book down and take a break.

It’s a story of self-discovery and an eye-opening snapshot of what humanity is capable of, both the good and bad. I can barely wrap my head around the long, drawn-out horrors that she endured, and I cannot imagine how I would have acted if it were me in her stead. I admire Lindhout’s courage, resilience, and her unending search for compassion in others. This is my favourite book of 2017 so far. Easy.

My rating: ★★★★★

I have to thank my friend, Alex, for recommending this book to me, as it’s not something I would usually read. I’m so glad I did. And now I am recommending this book to you. Please go read it. It’s unforgettable.

We were part of a desperate, wheedling multinational transaction. We were part of a holy war. We were part of a larger problem. I made promises to myself about what I’d do if I got out. Take Mom on a trip. Do something good for other people. Make apologies. Find love. We were close and also out of reach, thicketed away from the world. It was here, finally, that I started to believe this story would be one I’d never get to tell, that I would become an erasure, an eddy in a river pulled suddenly flat. I began to feel certain that, hidden inside Somalia, inside this unknowable and stricken place, we would never be found.

Happy (or sad) reading,

Rebecca xx

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