‘Wine not Read’ book review: A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

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Our ‘Wine not Read’ rating: 5 / 5

Well, after the somewhat disappointing start to our book club (yeah, we really didn’t enjoy our first book), we were nervous and cautious in selecting our second. But fear not! After several hours of browsing bestseller lists (and several glasses of wine later), we came across the memoir A House in the Sky by Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout coauthored by Sara Corbett.

MIND. BLOWN.

The memoir tells the dramatic story of Amanda, born in Red Deer, Alberta,  who spent a large part of her childhood dreaming about visiting the exotic locations found in National Geographic magazines. After saving her tips from her waitressing job, Amanda began traveling the world, backpacking though Latin America, Laos, and India, eventually traveling to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. Having caught the ‘travel bug’, in an effort to continue funding her travel habit, Amanda attempted a career as a television reporter, traveling to the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. Then, in 2008, accompanied by her former travel companion and photojournalist Nigel Brennan, Amanda traveled to Somalia. On day four, they were abducted. Held hostage by a group of captors for 460 days,  Amanda converted to Islam as a survival tactic, was moved between a series of houses, and attempted a risky escape. During the darkest moments, Amanda would escape to a house high up in the sky where she was free from the torture, pain, and despair.

Why we liked loved this book:
First of all, all four of us love to travel… so the beginning parts of the book that described her earlier adventures were really enjoyable and interesting for us to read. As for the rest of the book, well it was impossible to put down, we were always wanting to know “what happens next?”.  Also, we found that Amanda was very relatable: She did not portray herself as some perfect individual…she talked about herself very openly, demonstrating her humaneness, owning up to her naivety, talking about how she disregarded advice and warnings, and sharing how she so badly wanted to succeed as a reporter. Additionally, the memoir included a lot of detail and imagery of the various houses where Amanda was kept and of her captors. These details helped paint a very vivid and clear image of her harrowing ordeal, it was impossible to not be affected emotionally.  In fact, at times, we found ourselves not believing that she would survive (which is silly, since she wrote the memoir so obviously she survived), but that is how terrible it seemed. There were some parts of the book that were extremely difficult to read, but that is only to be expected from a retelling of such a horrific ordeal. 

Oh, on a side note…we were really impressed by how nicely Amanda spoke of Nigel in the book. Most of us did not care for him too much based on how he appeared to have acted throughout the ordeal. To be fair, we don’t know him, we were not there, and we don’t know how any of us would act in a situation like that…but still.

Why we did not like this book:
No reason. Honestly, we all loved it. We think this book may have ruined all other books for us for a while.

To sum up…
This is a book that we would recommend to anyone and everyone. But, just a head’s up, trigger warning due to descriptions of physical and sexual violence. While readers may have their own personal opinions about what led Amanda to Somalia in the first place, the book itself is an incredible read. We were all impressed by Amanda’s honesty and sincerity in the storytelling. But most of all, we were inspired by the courage she demonstrates, not only by having survived her ordeal, but by writing and sharing it with the world, by returning to Somalia in recent years to do humanitarian work, and by discussing her struggles with PTSD so openly. Her story is one that will leave you changed.

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