The trick to reading this very good book and not having a possible negative reaction (which is obvious in the varying reviews) is to refrain from judgements of the author, if possible, and just be enveloped in the story. Because, if you can avoid being infected by the candid and bitter details of a disappointing marriage--(the kind of inner and not so flattering feelings one usually shares only with their oath-sworn-to-patient-privacy shrink)--you will experience sensuous settings in far off places, refine your inner gastronome with exotic foods you've never heard of before, and almost taste "that lamb" as it sizzles over the rosemary scented fire. It really is a lovely epicurean trip that makes me want to lick my fingers as I recall some of the fare, and I could spend a day just conjouring up images of that castle/farmhouse, the meadows, orchards, and streams, the French ballet dancer mother with her omnipresent apron, the artistic bohemian father, the Italian villa, Rome by night--all the perfect ingredients.
The personal details are inarguably prickly; I found them uncomfortable yet brave admissions that lend authenticity to the story of this very authentic person. Coming from Hell's Kitchen tyrant Gordon Ramsay, or bad-ass Anthony Bourdain, the snarkyness would probably be expected and overlooked, like a mint leaf on mousse.Hamilton writes like she cooks and like she lives: committed, authentic, undiluted, without pretense...and that takes bravery--the kind of bravery one would expect from a young girl that can set off with a back pack and a little over $1,000 on a solo trip around the world. My opinion is that her narration lends a bit of personal revelation, which adds to the story. Glad I got around to this one.
Dubbed *one of the kidnapping crimes of the century,* the abduction of 14 yr. old Elizabeth Smart from her family home, dominated the news on June 5, 2002. When 9 months later we heard the amazing report that she had been found, we rejoiced...then we pondered the nightmare. Where had she been? What had she gone through? How did she survive? Would she be okay? With this book, and the assistance of Congressman/author Chris Stewart, Smart goes back over her ordeal, and in her own words answers those questions with brave candor and purpose. A story horrific enough that Stewart said he wondered how, after he listened to the details, he would be able to "make it so that people would read it and walk away with more faith, hope and belief in the goodness in life," as Smart intended. And that is exactly what we do walk away with...plus admiration for this incredible woman.
Smart called her ordeal "nine months of hell," but never even hints at self-pity, or fishes for ours. We learn that she endured an almost daily menu of torture, including daily sexual abuse by the depraved Brian David Mitchell -- aka the self proclaimed prophet Emmanuelle. There are no new titillating facts revealed -- it is about the events as she experienced them. Smart and her family have courageously insisted on presenting the facts, but have consistently refused to discuss in the media details of the abuse. She continues to keep the story focused on the crime, free of salacious details, and true to the perspective of a 14 year old innocent and very scared girl. Hearing her narrate her own story makes this all the more poignant. It is heartbreaking to hear her voice tell of the near rescues as they crumbled...looking through her veil at a young boy and wondering how her first date would have gone. And then, with the voice of an indomitable spirit, she makes a brilliant case for Mitchell's and Barzee's competency, that ultimately destroyed their plot to be found legally mentally incompetent to stand trial for their crimes.
Through all of this darkness, with the exception of sharing a few deservedly low moments, she amazingly keeps a tone of hope, and her light shining. Drawing on her Mormon upbringing, and faith that God had not abandoned her, Elizabeth refused to be beaten or broken, refused to be a victim. Her survival, her appreciation for each day of life, her love for her family, and her dedication to those suffering from similar experiences (the Elizabeth Smart Foundation) is remarkable, and one of the most inspiring stories I've read. Listening to this book changed the way I look at my own challenges. At the end, Lois Smart tenderly, but with force, gives her daughter the most beautiful and empowering advice -- words that only a mother could offer. Through all else, that is what finally brought me to tears.