At times when we peel back the skin of humanity we see an ugly creature, deformed and beyond recognition but other times sequestered beneath the many layers we find a soft and quiet beauty.
A House in the Sky is a memoir written by Amanda Lindhout and co author Sara Corbett. The memoir tells the story of Amanda and Nigel, a freelance journalist and her photographer friend who go to Somalia in search of what she refers to in her memoir as her “hurricane”. Amanda wants to be someone, do something worthwhile and her search for an elusive meaning to her life leads her and Nigel on a trip of and for their lives. On their third day in war town Somalia they are captured by a group of young Islamic extremists with one goal in mind, to kidnap two Westerners and hold them for ransom. The men are fundamentalist Muslims, they are terrorists but on another level they are just children. Amanda and Nigel endure an excruciating amount of terror at the hands of these young men, they are starved, abused, chained and all elemental freedoms are taken away. Despite this, Amanda humanizes these boys, taking the time out to acknowledge that despite the terror she endures at their hands, they are still just children who know of only war and anger. It is a strange thing to read a story filled with so much resentment and yet to find words of hope and love between the dark moments. The times where you want to shut the book and walk away, Amanda draws you back with a tender scene between her and one of her captors. Something as small as a smile, an acknowledgement, a gift of fruit, you begin to understand how much these minute acts mean to her in the larger frame of the horror that she is living through.
A constant source of criticism aimed at Amanda both before and after the release of this memoir was she shouldn’t have gone to Somalia in the first place. Is it really enough to say that you stepped into a war-ravaged country simply out of reckless ambition? Was her naivety to blame? Did she really think she was invincible? Was it her fault that Nigel was in this situation with her? Whatever the answers to these questions may be there is a heartbreaking sense of honestly in her story that is hard to ignore.
A House in the Sky is Amanda’s representation of the power of resilience, love and hope. Her house in the sky made it possible for her to bear the time she spent in captivity without giving up on humanity. It is a beautiful depiction of the elasticity of the human mind.