Book Review: Jaycee Dugard’s “Freedom”

I’ve mentioned the book A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard in my blog before, back when I addressed the topic of Banned Books Week. I’ve reread this incredible memoir many times since its publication in 2011. In that book, Jaycee described, in painful detail, her eighteen years in captivity, following her abduction from a school bus stop in Lake Tahoe in 1991. During that time, she gave birth to two daughters, fathered by her captor, finding herself the mother of two by the time she otherwise would have graduated from high school. In August of 2009, her nightmare finally came to an end, thanks to the diligence of strangers, and Jaycee was reunited with her family.

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Dugard’s second book, Freedom: My Book of Firsts chronicles the seven years since her dramatic rescue made international headlines. Unlike its predecessor, which is best read in small increments, because of the disturbing subject matter, this new installment is a quick and pleasant read, containing equal parts laughter and inspiration. The author’s sense of humor is apparent from the book’s opening, where she states: “No, I am not a Duggar. I do not have eighteen siblings. Let’s get one thing straight: my last name is DUGARD.”

 

Jaycee chronicles her journey into the world as an independent adult, a right she never thought she would enjoy, after spending more than half her life as Phillip Garrido’s slave. All the things most of us get to experience as teenagers– learning to drive, to cook, to go shopping in a mall– were surreal adventures for Jaycee. She points out that driving, in particular, is “not a right, but a privilege.” In a weird twist of fate, her younger sister, Shayna, who was just a baby when Jaycee was kidnapped, is the person who taught her to drive.

The money she made from her first book, and from a successful lawsuit against the State of California, allowed Jaycee and her family and close friends to travel to places Jaycee had only dreamed of seeing: Ireland, Belize… It is so cool to see her pictures and read her HAPPY memories from these adventures. They are SO deserved!

Much of Jaycee’s incredible recovery can be attributed to animals. In particular, horses. Learning to ride was a liberating exercise for Jaycee. She is also a dog and cat lover. In fact, not long after her rescue, Jaycee asked authorities to round up the many cats that had lived on the Garrido property where she and her daughters were held captive. (Four of the felines were rescued as a result.)

One question that many have asked Jaycee, in one form or another, is: “Where is your rage? Where is the anger?” Certainly, she has the right to be angry, furious, even… or at the very least, bitter. In Jaycee’s words:

“There’s lots in this world to be angry about. The world is a very angry place, and there are some very angry people living here on this planet we all share. However, I don’t choose to live in an angry state all of the time. I don’t live there. I don’t wallow in self-pity and think of all the what-ifs of life. It’s a waste of time and energy.”

It’s safe to guess that Freedom will not be Jaycee’s last book… There’s still so much she hasn’t done yet! Like, go on a date, for instance. Yep, even after her horrid, unthinkable, unimaginable ordeal with Phillip Garrido raping her on an almost daily basis during her childhood, Jaycee still entertains the possibility that there may be a ‘Prince Charming’ out there, waiting to sweep her off her feet and live with her, Happily Ever After, even though she has never been on an actual date yet.

 

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As for that so-called, “Happy Ending”… Let’s let Jaycee address that issue:

“My ending for this book is not an ending at all because my life goes on, even during the bad, hard, heart-crushing times. Even these moments have taught me something. I’m not thankful for them, but I’m tolerant of them because of this fact.”
I, for one, look forward to the next installment in Jaycee’s incredible story!

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