Review: A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard (US, 2011)

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The story is very familiar and has been widely covered by television news and documentary teams across the world; Jaycee Lee Dugard is kidnapped aged 11 in 1991 and only returns in 2009 with her children. After missing multiple chances to catch her kidnapper, the father of her children, and his wife, they are picked up almost instantly at the precinct the moment two cops follow their hunch and plead guilty and get heavy sentences (although the sentencing is after the timeline of the book ends). Then there’s a magazine article, and a TV interview that is only shown completely in the USA. So for the rest of the world, A Stolen Life (hereafter known as ASL) is what we were waiting for to get the fully rounded background to the entire case.
As part of her therapy there are general reflections to each chapter of ASL with Dugard looking back now on what happened then but one core strength of the book (we bought the hardback for review) was the inclusion of the childhood diaries as they were, in Dugard’s handwriting at her ages in captivity rather than neatly transposed. The overall theme of her triumph is made all the more real when looking at these diaries which you’d have expected her to keep whilst free, but are all the more emotional when sat next to the first three chapters detailing her kidnap and her captors’ somewhat erratic routines with regard to the abuse. It would be hard to get the same feeling or emotional reaction to these diaries, from a kindle ebook version of the same thing, so for once it’s good to have the print medium pack a punch alongside a powerful narrative. Those extras also outline how animals and pets remained her only friends until she was freed.

Until another living survivor of a long term kidnap, CSA and rescue situtation writes another book (since nearly all the significant figures in the Steven Stayner case have died including the biographer), or until Dugard’s mother’s book is published as planned for the parents’ view, A Stolen Life is as much of a must-read book as The Courage To Heal and Victims No Longer. If there’s one niggling fault to the book it’s that sometimes Jaycee Dugard’s strained relationship with her stepfather is repeated once too often to the point where you’d be forgiven for thinking Carl Probyn got tougher criticism than the kidnappers, considering he was accused of the crime and her potential murder in her absence and their marriage ended. So whatever issues Dugard may have had with Probyn, the reader and anyone that watched the UK documentaries can see that he more than paid for whatever we were not privvy to between Probyn and his stepdaughter.

However, that’s the only flaw to this otherwise excellent book which basically replaces the rushed interview and the People magazine article which we learn was essentially forced on her by the media. Since it’s written in her own words, A Stolen Life is the direct reference for this case and whilst her mother’s book will bring another often under-reported perspective on a missing child case, ASL fulfils the primary job of letting Jaycee Dugard control her own perspective on what happened to her. Don’t get the ebook though, read it in print.


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