Before their daughters go back to school and before they get busy storing away their summertime white-wear, moms should book some special time with their girls, first watching Diane Sawyer’s landmark interview with Jaycee Dugard, and then sharing the experience of reading Jaycee Dugard’s amazing autobiography, A Stolen Life. Jaycee Dugard and her book present an inspiring, compelling story of a woman’s heroism, and in Jaycee Dugard’s case, it matters very much that she is a woman—gifted with a woman’s special stamina, devoted to her mother through years of separation, and absolutely in love with her own two daughters.
For mothers and daughters, no work of fiction ever could rival A Stolen Life as agent of and occasion for female bonding. The subject matter challenges readers’ endurance, but the writing is absolutely spellbinding.
The fundamentals of Jaycee Dugard’s story are fairly well-known: On a sunny late spring morning in 1991, Jaycee waited for the school bus as usual. As if from out of nowhere, a sinister-looking sedan approached, someone shot a stun-gun, paralyzing Jaycee. Her captors threw a blanket over the young girl, thrust her into the car’s back seat, and someone literally sat on her until they reached the compound where she would remain captive for eighteen immeasurably long years.
Speaking with Diane Sawyer, Jaycee Dugard manifest her courage in words worthy of frequent quotation: "Why not look at it? You know, stare it down until it can't scare you anymore," she told Sawyer. "I didn't want there to be any more secrets…I hadn't done anything wrong. It wasn't something I did that caused this to happen. And I feel that by putting it all out there, it's very freeing."
A Stolen Life details Jaycee Dugard’s eighteen years of rape, imprisonment, torture, degradation, slavery, and manipulation at the hands of Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy, both of whom are now serving life terms in California prisons. ABC News says, “She's taking an unflinching look at the horror she's overcome and giving an unsparing account of the way a predator operates and how she survived.” The key word, of course, is “unflinching,” the touchstone of a heroine. The publishers even have included photographic reproductions of her extensive journals, one of the essential tools in her survival.
An ideal introduction to reading A Stolen Life, which has remained atop the best-seller lists since its first day in stores, Jaycee Dugard’s interview with Diane Sawyer satisfies lots of curiosity about the content and quality of her life since she was freed and reunited with her mother on August 25, 2009. The interview also marks a very special moment in journalistic history, because it captures i8ntimate dialogue between two very powerful women.
"Wow. Now I can walk in the next room and see my mom. Wow. I can decide to jump in the car and go to the beach with the girls. Wow. It's unbelievable. Truly," Jaycee Dugard exults during her interview. ABC News explains, “Simple firsts have brought healing to Dugard and her family: learning how to drive from the sister who was just a baby when Dugard was kidnapped, eating family dinners around a table instead of the fast food that Phillip Garrido fed her for 18 years, and even just saying her name which was forbidden by her captors.”
Brooke Sommerfield, a San Diego child advocate who shared the interview and book with her fourteen-year-old daughter, describes their effect on everyday life. “When we say grace before dinner, it means something now. When we say we love one another, we make it a point to look opne another in the eye. And when we hug, we hug much harder and longer. Sharing Jaycee Dugard’s experience, we learned to appreciate the tiny details of our own mother-daughter relationship.”
A riveting, very real story of courage, survival, faith, and joy
At the peak of his powers, intense realist Ernest Hemingway maintained the best way to comment on controversial people and events was simply to present them as accurately as possible; he argued that recreating the action in vivid language had far more impact than volumes of analysis and commentary. By instinct and intuition, Jaycee Dugard follows the Nobel Prizewinner’s suggestion, showing her life’s most important events without a great deal of lyric embroidery or intellectual analysis. “Very real” here signifies not only honest and accurate recreation of captivity’s horror but also frequently means “graphic and extremely disturbing”—harrowing, nearly unimaginable torture and degradation represented as precisely as Jaycee Dugard has strength and words to put them on the page. Preparing A Stolen Life for publication, Jaycee Dugard’s editors wisely preserved her voice, including her occasional mistakes, adding to the book’s overwhelming authenticity. No ghostwriter here. Nothing even remotely slick and glossy. Just the pure essence of Jaycee and therefore a triumph, a total tour de force. If you haven't read 'A Stolen Life' yet, then it's high time you did so.