Book Review: A House in the Sky

06_bookreview Read for: FABClub Monthly Memoir – January 2014
Rating: 4/5
To be totally honest, I didn’t want to read this memoir. I knew it would be a hard and traumatic story (understatement x 100000), but it was selected by the members of FABClub to be the Monthly Memoir for January 2014, and, not wanting to be left out of the loop, I dove in. And now I have a lot of feels about what Amanda went through. I’m going to start by expressing what may not be a popular opinion; what the f*ck was she thinking? WTF WAS SHE THINKING. Her naivety in making the decision to go to Somalia, seemingly BECAUSE it was so war-torn and dangerous, and additionally as a kind of dig at her ex-boyfriend, absolutely stunned me. I understand being bitten by the travel bug; I, too, want to see all the world has to offer and have already knocked a few major locales off the list… but there have to be limits. Am I victim blaming here? Am I just as bad as the people who finger waggle and say that rape victims “deserved it” because they were wearing revealing clothes? I am in no way justifying the actions of the men – and children! – that kidnapped Amanda and Nigel. Not at all. They are horrible people who did horrible things and they sincerely make me not want to live on this planet anymore. And in a perfect world we could all travel willy-nilly wherever we want, whenever we want, and expect to roam in total safety. But that’s sadly just not the case. And unfortunately Amanda’s story illustrates that very clearly. I respect her courage in making her experience public, and I am very moved that she continues to travel to the area in order to work with women.

What I liked about the book was the pacing. The story begins with a recap of Amanda’s childhood and adolescence as she begins to travel the world. She finds employment at a bar where she makes a crazy amount of money ($1000/night waitressing… is that even a thing that’s possible? I’m in the wrong line of work, apparently), all funds going towards travel. She covers some serious must-go locations, before getting into selling her photos and ‘reporting’. I admire her attempts at becoming a professional travel photographer and journalist, but it sounded like she wasn’t making much headway. That was what made it especially surprising that she would decide to go to Somalia, then basically convince her small hometown (Red Deer, Alberta) newspaper to run some articles and pics she has submitted. So instead of going to a super dangerous location for major pay/gain (for National Geographic, say) she goes for what is essentially no reason. Ok ok, her decision to go to Somalia was obviously bad, let’s not belabour it. She acknowledges this in the book as well. To get to the meat of it; she suffered through a horrible and LONG ordeal that nobody should have to endure. Her strength blew my mind. Seriously, I would have ridden into the sunset on the razorblade express at about week 2, and she stuck it out for 460 days. 460. Let that settle in. I have very few words to describe all the feels I have about this. If you are feeling brave, give it a read. But trigger warning big time.

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