It is no wonder that this crime haunted and intrigued Parry (Tokyo bureau chief for the London Times) for 10 yrs.; it's hard to wrap your head around such evil and remorseless crimes -- and a culture that treats both sexual deviance and prosecution of criminals so foreignly from Western societies. Kudos to Parry for keeping this tangled story so on track and objective. The author has layered the crime with insightful histories of the victim and the perp, the cultural morals, and the Japanese police and legal process, which is all fascinating. I was blown away by the behavior of the killer Obara while he was in custody, and by several other incidents that I won't go into lest I spoil some shocking twists.
The crime itself is told mercifully free of many details -- you don't need them as the crime itself speaks volumes. The focus here is on the overall layered events, which are presented in a precise timeline. Parry himself becomes involved in the case, adding another fascinating dimension to a story that is on par with Capote's In Cold Blood (a comparison I can't credit for reaching myself; I read the obsservation in a review and found it dead on). Parry's investigative journalism is a different style from Capote's, but a reading worthy of comparisons. Aside from an horrific crime, I found the insider look into the culture and process illuminating.
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.