Synopses & Reviews
The spectacularly dramatic memoir of a woman whose curiosity about the world led her from rural Canada to imperiled and dangerous countries on every continent, and then into fifteen months of harrowing captivity in Somalia — a story of courage, resilience, and extraordinary grace.
At the age of eighteen, Amanda Lindhout moved from her hardscrabble Alberta hometown to the big city — Calgary — and worked as a cocktail waitress, saving her tips so she could travel the globe. As a child, she escaped a violent household by paging through National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. Now she would see those places for real. She backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each experience, went on to travel solo across Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a TV reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Mogadishu, Somalia — "the most dangerous place on earth" — to report on the fighting there. On her fourth day in the country, she and her photojournalist companion were abducted.
An astoundingly intimate and harrowing account of Lindhout's fifteen months as a captive, A House in the Sky illuminates the psychology, motivations, and desperate extremism of her young guards and the men in charge of them. She is kept in chains, nearly starved, and subjected to unthinkable abuse. She survives by imagining herself in a "house in the sky," looking down at the woman shackled below, and finding strength and hope in the power of her own mind. Lindhout's decision, upon her release, to counter the violence she endured by founding an organization to help the Somali people rebuild their country through education is a wrenching testament to the capacity of the human spirit and an astonishing portrait of the power of compassion and forgiveness.
"Canadian journalist Lindhout gives a well-honed, harrowing account of her 459-day captivity at the hands of Somali Islamist rebels. Bit by the travel bug early in her life, partly due to the stultifying conditions at home in Sylvan Lake, in Alberta, Canada, where she lived with her single mom and abusive Native American boyfriend, Lindhout was attracted to the exotic world depicted within the pages of National Geographic and vowed to 'go somewhere' as soon as she could. Working at an Alberta nightclub called the Drink, Lindhout was able to cobble together money to travel over the years, eventually finding herself in Africa and the Middle East, freelancing as a photographer and journalist and having a love affair with a (married) Australian photographer, Nigel Brennan. Convinced war-torn Somalia would be the 'hurricane' to make her career, in August 2008, at age 25, she and Nigel flew to Mogadishu, and, with a 'fixer' and an SUV full of official 'guards,' set off to view a displaced-persons' camp but was instead carjacked by a group of kidnappers who demanded millions from the Westerners' families. Her captors moved her frequently from hideout to hideout, and she eventually converted to Islam ('They can't kill us if we convert,' she told Nigel), was separated from Nigel, and was raped and tortured. Lindhout attempted escape but no one came to her aid. She and Nigel miraculously survived as their families and governments dickered over ransom negotiations. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Exquisitely told...[A House in the Sky] is much more than a gonzo adventure tale gone awry — it's a young woman's harrowing coming-of-age story and an extraordinary narrative of forgiveness and spiritual triumph....There's no self-pity or grandiosity in these pages. In the cleanest prose, she and Corbett allow events both horrific and absurd...to unfold on their own. Lindhout's resilience transforms the story from a litany of horrors into a humbling encounter with the human spirit."
Eliza Griswold, The New York Times Book Review
"A poetic, profound, and thrilling exploration of one woman's misadventure set against the backdrop of global terrorism....Elegant and evocative." Rebecca Johnson, Vogue
"[A] harrowing, beautifully written memoir....The wide-eyed optimism and unflappable determination that led [Amanda Lindhout] to danger also kept her alive....A brave, compassionate and inspiring triumph." Korina Lopez, USA Today
About the Author
Amanda Lindhout has gained international acclaim and awards for her work supporting development and aid in Somalia. In 2010 she founded The Global Enrichment Foundation (GEF) to ignite leadership through education and economic initiatives. She has been featured in many publications and has appeared on the Today
show, Anderson Cooper 360
, CNN, NBC Nightly News
, BBC, MSNBC, CTV's Canada AM
, and CBC's The National
Sara Corbett has worked as a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine since 2001. Her features have also appeared in National Geographic; Elle; Outside; O, The Oprah Magazine; Esquire; Mother Jones; and Travel and Leisure.