A House in the Sky: A Memoir
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date: September 2013
Duration: 13 hours 19 minutes
A House in the Sky is the superbly-written and intensely moving memoir of Amanda Lindhout, a 31-year-old Canadian woman who was kidnapped in Somalia and held for a harrowing 460 days. Even prior to the 2008 morning when her captors abducted her on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Lindhout’s story is an unusual one: After finishing high school in hard-scrabble Alberta, she moved to the big city—Calgary—and became a cocktail waitress, saving her tips from customers flush with oil-boom cash. At the age of 20, with her newfound income, Lindhout boarded her first international flight. As a child, she had escaped a house governed by chaos and violence, her mother often beaten in the room next door, by paging through copies of National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. Now she would see those places for real.
She traveled through Latin America, then Laos, then Bangladesh and India. When money ran out, she returned home to save for the next adventure, launching herself each time deeper into the world—backpacking solo across Sudan, Syria, Pakistan—and closer to some sort of edge. In Afghanistan in 2006 she developed an interest in journalism, ultimately carving out a fledgling career as a TV reporter. Following the lead of war correspondents she’d encountered, all of whom had planted themselves in the heart of the 21st century’s hottest conflicts, Lindhout based herself in Kabul and then Baghdad. In August 2008, she traveled to Mogadishu, Somalia— “the most dangerous place on earth”— to report on an impending famine. Three days into her visit—along with Nigel Brennan, an Australian photojournalist and ex-boyfriend—she was abducted.
As much as it is an adventure story charting a young woman’s search to find herself in a big world, A House in the Sky tells an astoundingly intimate story of Lindhout’s 15 months as a captive, including a revealing look at fundamental Islam as practiced by the young men guarding her. As her mother in Canada attempts to negotiate impossible ransom demands, Lindhout focuses on staying alive—converting to Islam, receiving “wife lessons” from an amorous militia leader, and plotting a risky escape that has devastating consequences. She is kept in chains, nearly starved, and endures escalating abuse from her captors. One of her survival techniques is to imagine herself in a “house in the sky,” looking down at the woman shackled in the dark room.
Amanda Lindhout’s story is a wrenching testament to the capacity of the human spirit to overcome unspeakable adversity and find a deeper resolve to live—in this case, through memory, imagination, and an essential, heart-stopping discovery about the power of compassion and forgiveness.