I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.
Now for the first time, in her memoir, MY STORY, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving. Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.
Strange things happen when I’m bored. I was in the public library, waiting for my laptop to digest some security updates and just happened to lean over and grab this book. “Oh, I remember this story,” I thought. “I’ll just read a few pages while the computer updates.” Well, I had been away on vacation for two weeks, and there were a lot of updates to grind through. By the time it was done, I was several chapters in and hooked.
I can’t resist books like these—tales of women who survived some of the worst situations that they could ever have found themselves in and who emerge from the experience able to share their stories and proclaim their transcendence over them. I chalk some of it up to the same instinct that makes us want to gawk at traffic accidents: identify the problem so as to try to avoid it in the future.
It is obvious from the book that Elizabeth’s Mormon faith was a great comfort and support to her during her ordeal. Although I do not espouse any particular religion, I can appreciate the fact that this philosophy helped a 14 year old survive a miserable experience. I am also amazed at how mentally tough this rather introverted and admittedly geeky young woman was—no Stockholm syndrome for Ms. Smart.
Whatever else, I think Elizabeth’s mother nailed it when she told her daughter not to give her captor even one more minute of her life—to completely disregard him from the moment she escaped. Living well really is the best revenge.