(Simon & Schuster.) A woman’s recollection of being kidnapped at the age of 11, spending 18 years imprisoned by a convicted rapist and his wife, and bearing two daughters by him.
“I would love to be a writer someday,” Jaycee Dugard wrote in her journal in 2002. “I love to write. I have no idea what I would write about.”
Two years later, on a list titled “My Dreams for the Future,” she included “See Pyramids,” “Swim with dolphins” and “Write a best seller.”
Ms. Dugard’s memoir, “A Stolen Life,” was an instant best seller, and she did not lack for material. Hers is a story of her being yanked out of her normal life at the age of 11; spending 18 years imprisoned by the convicted rapist Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy; and bearing two daughters by Mr. Garrido.
She describes these events with dignified, hard-hitting understatement, recreating her initial naïveté about the monstrousness of her situation.
Early in the book, after describing how she was knocked out with a stun gun, forced into a car and taken to the ramshackle backyard where she would spend much of her life, she recalls: “I ask him if I can put my clothes back on.
He chuckles and says no. I ask him when I can go home. He says he doesn’t know but he will work on it. I say my family doesn’t have a lot of money, but they would pay a ransom to get me back. He looks at me and smiles and says, really?” No horror writer could make that moment more chilling.
Ms. Dugard writes about often feeling scared and alone, with Mr. Garrido as her main source of human company. And then, starting when Ms. Dugard had turned 14, she had her children.
The book describes how this girl, whose pre-abduction idea of sex had meant tilting Barbie and Ken dolls in horizontal positions, found herself alone in a soundproof room as she went into labor for the first time. The Garridos wound up helping her.
But they also denied her the right to be acknowledged as her daughters’ mother. Ms. Garrido had to be called “Mom,” because it hurt her feelings not to be. Ms. Dugard would have to masquerade as “Alissa,” an older sister.
As the adult author of “A Stolen Life,” Ms. Dugard sometimes amplifies her memories with angrier, more recent thoughts. (“It confused the hell out of me.”) And she draws a protective silence around her daughters, who are identified only by initials.
One of the characters who appears abruptly in this story is Mr. Garrido’s ailing mother. She seems to dislike Ms. Dugard. Ms. Dugard writes wisely, “I think she knows I represent a side of her son that she doesn’t want to acknowledge exists.”