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A summary and review of the book A House in the Sky

Whoever created this book cover sure likes teal…is that teal?/haley klassen

Whoever created this book cover sure likes teal…is that teal?/haley klassen

Author: Suzanne Barber

It is August 2008 as a 27-year-old Amanda Lindhout and her Australian companion travel to Somalia. As the plane begins to descend, Lindhout peers out the window, watching as Mogadishu’s turquoise coast comes into view.

Somalia, from this vantage point, looks beautiful, even peaceful. Lindhout is optimistic; she is hoping to cover a story that will kick-start her career as an aspiring journalist. Lindhout is unaware, however, that the story she will later tell is one of her own kidnapping.

Four days after arriving in Mogadishu, the pair is taken by a group of Islamic insurgents and held for ransom for fifteen grueling months. Lindhout, along with New York Times writer, Sara Corbett, vividly detail the 460 days of captivity in the heart-breaking, yet enlightening memoir, A House in the Sky.

At 19, Lindhout moves from Sylvan Lake to Calgary, leaving her impoverished childhood, spotted with domestic violence, behind. She lands her first job serving at a high end lounge and (now with the ability to finance it) soon turns her attention to travel. Inspired by the pages of National Geographic she collected growing up, she is ready to go “anywhere”.

Bitten by wanderlust, Amanda travels throughout her twenties, visiting the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Once her bank account runs dry, she skips back to Calgary to collect a wealth of waitress tips and begin planning her next adventure.

After years of travel, she starts thinking about a career. She buys a camera, takes a sketchy reporting job in Iraq and begins hunting for stories that will help her gain credibility.

For Lindhout, Somalia is a place where she can find a story: “Somalia was a mess. There were stories there — a raging war, an impeding famine, religious extremism… I understood that is was a hostile, dangerous place and few reporters dared to go there.” As Lindhout painfully discovers, there is a reason few reporters dared to go there.

After she is taken prisoner, she lives a brutal reality, overcoming beatings, starvation, rape and torture. As her body withers, however, her mind becomes stronger. It is through this unimaginable adversity that Lindhout illustrates both empathy and grace; she transcends her darkest, most desperate times by finding solace in her imagination, building a safe “house in the sky.”

Up until the point of Lindhout’s capture, she is not a very sympathetic character. She recklessly puts herself, along with her Australian companion, between the cross-hairs. At times it is easy to wonder, what did she expect? She is lucky to be alive— and she is.

However, Lindhout’s memoir has no self-pity or grandiose and, instead, becomes increasingly powerful as the months of captivity cumulate.

This is a coming-of-age story that illuminates both inhumanity and humanity. The beautiful writing will pull you into the thoughts of Lindhout, resulting in feelings of sorrow, suspense and hope – sometimes all at once – and likely, for long after the final turn of the page.

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