Review: A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. It was a pick for my book club, and it’s taken me a few weeks to be ready to share my thoughts about the book.

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Via Goodreads:

The dramatic and redemptive memoir of a woman whose curiosity led her to the world’s most beautiful and remote places, its most imperiled and perilous countries, and then into fifteen months of harrowing captivity—an exquisitely written story of courage, resilience, and grace….

Vivid and suspenseful, as artfully written as the finest novel, A House in the Sky is the searingly intimate story of an intrepid young woman and her search for compassion in the face of unimaginable adversity.

I give A House in the Sky a reluctant four out of five stars.

I had a really difficult time with this book, I’m going to be honest about that from the beginning. If reading about violence, about hatred, about extremism, or about faith taken to its extremes is going to both you, this is not the book for you.

But first, the good. I can say, unequivocally, that I truly enjoyed the first third of the book. After exploring Lindhout’s shaky upbringing, we grow with her and see her become a world traveler who is ready to push limits. It was so exciting reading about her travels through Central and South America, through Asia.

My concerns started developing when I noticed her naiveté during her travels to Pakistan and Afghanistan – recklessly exploring each with no real understanding of the culture or Islam or the validity of danger there. Even after she learns, “Don’t F*ck with Afghanistan”, she continues into Somalia, which, at the time, was arguably the most dangerous country in the world.

I’m not going to go into the details of the book, but suffice it to say, the escalating violence was really upsetting to me, as was the absolute distortion of what I understand the Muslim faith to be. When I finished the book, I was angry, both at Lindhout’s kidnappers, and at her, for not respecting the danger.

After I finally had time to calm down, however, I tried to relate with the empathy that she finds for her captors in the book, despite their despicable behavior. I still can’t relate to it, but I’m trying. Ultimately, the kidnapping happened because of problems and norms in the society in Somalia at the time, and because of religious extremism, which I can’t even begin to understand. Granted, Lindhout kicked the hornet’s nest by visiting Somalia at all, but that does not make her to blame for what happened.

My feelings about the contents of this book aside, I have to say that Sara Corbett did a beautiful job writing the book (because let’s be real, she’s the author here). The prose is lovely, and even the most violent scenes that made me queasy and chased my thoughts for days were written briefly and tactfully. That, paired with the fact that I think that this is a story that deserves to be told, is what brings it to four stars for me. I would not go so far as to say I enjoyed reading this book, nor that I would recommend it to a friend, but I will say that I am glad that it exists, and I am glad that I pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone by reading it.

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