A House in the Sky: A Memoir

Paperback | August 26, 2014

byAmanda Lindhout, Sara Corbett

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The New York Times bestselling memoir of a woman whose curiosity led her to the world’s most remote places and then into fifteen months of captivity: “Exquisitely told…A young woman’s harrowing coming-of-age story and an extraordinary narrative of forgiveness and spiritual triumph” (The New York Times Book Review).

As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself visiting its exotic locales. At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth.” On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.

Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark.

Vivid and suspenseful, as artfully written as the finest novel, A House in the Sky is “a searingly unsentimental account. Ultimately it is compassion—for her naïve younger self, for her kidnappers—that becomes the key to Lindhout’s survival” (O, The Oprah Magazine).

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From the Publisher

The New York Times bestselling memoir of a woman whose curiosity led her to the world’s most remote places and then into fifteen months of captivity: “Exquisitely told…A young woman’s harrowing coming-of-age story and an extraordinary narrative of forgiveness and spiritual triumph” (The New York Times Book Review).As a child, Amanda Li...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:400 pages, 8.38 × 5.5 × 1.2 inPublished:August 26, 2014Publisher:ScribnerLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1451651481

ISBN - 13:9781451651485

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Customer Reviews of A House in the Sky: A Memoir


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Practically Turned Its Own Pages During a trip to Hawaii, this book was in the condo that my family rented - what were the chances, considering I was from Alberta (just like the author herself). I picked it up every moment of downtime I got. I didn't finish it, so upon arriving to back in Canada I bought the book for myself. It was a huge eye opener to read the hardship that this woman went through, and made me very grateful for the safety of our own country. Absolutely worth the read.
Date published: 2016-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Could not put it down ! This memoir was moving and I read into the night to see what happended. There were times when I was yelling at her to not be so niave. This book will have an impact on me for quite sometime. The power of the mind and what we can endure, this book it remarkable. Also in the news last year in 2015 the RCMP lured one of Lindhout's kidnappers back to Canada and arrested him. Her perspective on the entire situation is nothing short of remarkable it really makes you think about forgiveness what we have in our daily life to be thankful for
Date published: 2016-12-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Whoa. Grueling. Heart breaking. Compelling from page 1. I couldn't stop reading this. It's going to be on my mind for a long time. I need time to fully process.
Date published: 2016-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My New Fav! This book was captivating, and kept me intrigued the whole way through. Her story is shocking but amazing how she has responded to it and what she has accomplished. Not to mention an X grad!
Date published: 2016-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from well written This book was enjoyed by myself, my mom and 3 of my sisters
Date published: 2016-11-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fantastic Very entertaining and powerful, it's definitely worth a read, I couldn't put it down!
Date published: 2016-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read! Couldn't put this book down. Very inspiring.
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down! Loved this book! So inspirational! I could not put it down!
Date published: 2016-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great read I couldn't put this book down! Such a great read.
Date published: 2016-11-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Book Book!
Date published: 2016-11-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Well written, but not a fan I read this as part of a book club, and probably wouldn't have finished it without the incentive of our next meeting. The saving grace is that it is a well-written book, but the deplorable treatment of her on her travels was entirely avoidable, and she just keeps going. Then there is the problem that Lindhout is not an entirely likeable character to root for to begin with.
Date published: 2016-11-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Shocking A frightening and scary experience.
Date published: 2016-11-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unforgetable I read this book three years ago and I still think about it. I felt that it was written in such a way that I could relate to Amanda Lindhout and imagine everything she went through.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heart wrenching, but excellent So well written. Hard to read at times, but a must-have for every non-fiction lover's home library.
Date published: 2016-11-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from loved really good
Date published: 2016-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from idk seeems cool
Date published: 2016-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing story, well-written I couldn't put this book down, her storyis mind-blowing, something that no one should ever have to endure but it's very powerful and resonates with you for a long time after you finish the book. I've recommended this to many friends and they've all raved about it too. Must read!
Date published: 2016-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating Excellent book, I have recommended it to everyone! I couldn't put it down. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-11-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from meaningful definitely an amazing read, has a powerful message and proves you can get through anything. Definitely my favourite non-fiction book
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible book Could not put this down!
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended Read! This book was a book club pick, and I'm so glad it was! I couldn't put it down, though some parts were tough to read - especially knowing it wasn't a fictional story. Being a woman who has traveled alone, this book really hit home. Definitely worth reading!
Date published: 2016-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Could not put it down I cannot properly describe the impact this book left on me after I finished reading it. I was truly awed and inspired by Amanda and what she endured - so amazing.
Date published: 2016-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing and emotional This book is an emotional read and I cannot believe what the author has gone through, she is very strong and if we think we have a slight problem it cannot compare to what happens elsewhere in the world. I loved this book.
Date published: 2016-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! I have always love biographies and memoirs and this is a stand out! so so so good! haven't had anything capture my attention like this book did in a while
Date published: 2016-05-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from terrifying story because it's true the story itself is interesting and terrifying but the writing was just okay
Date published: 2016-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Good I am so happy this woman made it out of Somalia alive. She has survived a horrible phase in her life. She is so inspiring and Brave. I enjoyed the message this book brought to surface; because despite the captive conditions she continued to stay positive channeling her energy to a better place. Reading some of the verses made me invasion some of her cruel and most disastrous moments. Words are indescribable for Amanda's situation and for the other journalist who have experienced similar acts of human brutality.
Date published: 2016-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent!!! Amanda Lindout's experience of being a captive to Muslim extremists was a very engrossing and revelatory read. She has great intestinal fortitude and a will to live. This book will show you the true realities of the harshness of what it is like in less civilized parts of the world.
Date published: 2016-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous book! I wish I could give it 10 stars This book is quite difficult at times to read, but well worth it. I couldn't put it down, I haven't felt this way about a book in a long time. The fact that it's a true story makes it all the more enthralling, although heart wrenching. I followed her story from the time that she was captured until she was finally released and I was so happy for her and for her wonderful family who never gave up on her. I truly admire Amanda and I very much admire the way she turned such a traumatic life experience into something more, that is beneficial for humankind and particularly for women in impoverished countries. Her story is well told and I highly recommend her book to everyone. I'm telling everyone about it!
Date published: 2016-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Recommended! I have read many books from various genres, and I'd have to say that this book is so well-written and the most impactful that I have read this year. Once I began reading, I couldn't stop and I became wholly invested in hearing Amanda's story. Must-read!!
Date published: 2016-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must-Read Novel You just need to read it!! You're welcome haha
Date published: 2016-02-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Did not like it. It was very repetitive and boring, what she went through was horrible and my heart broke when I read her experience, however it was the content that made me sad not her writing. I did not like it.
Date published: 2016-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must Read The writer takes you on a very personal journey through her harrowing experiences captured in Somalia for 15 months. There are so many lessons within the pages of this memoir. When facing adversity, if we dig really deep within ourselves we can find courage, strength, hope and faith to see us through, Never give up!! We are so much stronger than we think. This extraordinary woman truly teaches you the importance of being optimistic and courageous in our darkest hours. A truly amazing memoir you must read!
Date published: 2016-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Could not put it down I got this book for Christmas, and finished it within 24 hours. This is no easy feat as a mother of two under 4! This book was well written, engaging, and had me neglecting the chores so I could read it. I recommend it to anyone who will listen, and it sparked in me the love of reading that had been dulled over the last few years of sleepless nights and early wake-ups. You won't regret it!
Date published: 2016-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gripping! 3 things: Horrific story. Well written. Must read.
Date published: 2015-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from well written This book will take you through the heart, mind and soul of Amanda and her life's journey. It is both powerful and emotional. You feel as though you are experiencing every emotion and though along with her. It was well written and I would recommend this to anyone who loves to read true story novels.
Date published: 2015-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unbelievable story This was beautifully written memoir. It is incredible Amanda endured and her ability to survive is evident in each paragraph.
Date published: 2015-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely incredible & inspiring Very powerful, at times soul-crushingly painful and yet you walk away from it feeling like you've gained something.
Date published: 2015-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A tough read! I thought this was a marvelous book but I found it hard to read her vivid descriptions of all the horrible things that were done to her. Why would anyone want to do the things those men did to Amanda Lindhout to anyone is beyond me. I too would be interested in hearing her partner's side of the ordeal, at least to find why he seemed to "abandon" her when things got tough.
Date published: 2015-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gripping story Wow, what an incredible and horrific experience this woman endured and thankfully, survived. I can't imagine being thrust into such a situation. A very gripping and graphic true story that will make you feel thankful for the many freedoms we take for granted. You will not want to set this book down.
Date published: 2015-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I give it a 5 stars!!! I devoured this book in no time and I highly recommend it!
Date published: 2015-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing!! This was an amazing read!! The courage the author went through is very inspiring. I am from Saskatchewan, Canada which is the neighboring province to Alberta where Amanda was born and raised so it's surreal to think a woman only a few years older than me went through that ordeal. I am sooo happy to hear she is using what happened to her to help others.
Date published: 2015-08-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The House in the Sky Amazing read, it took me on an incredible journey; from the eagerness and excitement to see the world to having to survive outrageous life threatening experiences.
Date published: 2015-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A House in the Sky It was hard to put down once I started readig. The torture Amanda went through is just unimaginable. Shr was a s strong person to endure what she did. Also to forgive her captors was a big thing
Date published: 2015-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved t!! Was hooked on this book from page one. Blown away by Amanda's story. A must read. Will definitey recommend.
Date published: 2015-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow I had heard an interview on CBC Radio several months back with Amanda about her book. I was totally compelled by the 10 min segment; I wasn't long purchasing the book. What an incredible memoir this was. What this woman has been through required so much strength.... I can't even imagine. She goes into great personal detail of her personal experiences during captivity. And somehow through everything she manages to at one point feel compassion for her captures. Its a story you will not forget.
Date published: 2015-05-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting and thought-provoking If I were to divide this book into thirds, I would give the first and last sections a 5-star+ rating. I did find the middle section of the book somewhat repetitive and just too much of the same type incidents over and over, too much waiting for something major to happen. The ending was great and overall I was thoroughly satisfied with this book.
Date published: 2015-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A house in the sky Gripping, painful to read but you cant stop, moving, shocking,full of strength and amazing that a human can endure so much torture and survive
Date published: 2015-04-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A House in the Sky This is one of those books that every time I was in a bookstore would stop, pick it up, contemplate and then put back down and tell myself another time. When it was selected as Chapters Indigo's October pick for their #worldsbiggestbookclub I knew it was finally time to dive in. And am I ever glad I did. Such a powerful and moving read full of real emotion. This memoir either seems to speak to you or it doesn't. There are a number of reviews out there that seem to think that Amanda Lindhout may have gotten what she deserves. This is very disheartening. Yes, she may have exposed herself to danger and been naive in thinking she was invincible but no mater if you are traveling in a "safe" country or a war torn country you never know what can happen. No one deserves to be raped, beaten and torched. I found it hard to understand how she remained so positive during her whole ordeal and has even gone as far as to forgive her captors. Just goes to show how strong of a woman she is, and I have nothing but respect for her. I found the first third of the book very interesting, while others found it boring I began to develop jealousy towards Lindhout, she was traveling to all the countries I've only dreamed about visiting and living the dream that many will never get to experience. At the end of her memoir she mentions that Nigel wrote a book about his experience in Somalia and I would be very interesting on hearing his take on being imprisoned and his point of view. I am also excited that the book had been optioned into a movie and it will be very interesting to see how it comes out. What a true story of inspiration and perseverance
Date published: 2015-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life-Changing The tenacity of Amanda Lindhout in her personal memoir embodies the inner strength and power of the human will. Her courage, perseverance, and resilience throughout the story continue to inspire me every day to trust in my own inner strength and ability to triumph over hardships in my own life. Thank you Amanda for sharing your story and never giving up.
Date published: 2015-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fantastic Book! I bought it as part of my 2015 New Years resolution to take some me time this year and dedicate it to reading at least 1 book a month! What a fantastic read and totally inspiring 1st read to start my reading journey again!!
Date published: 2015-03-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Read this book - Wow, Riveting! Gives me a whole new understanding of the Muslim world and the strength these two people, especially Amanda, endured to live through it and give back to the community & people who toured her and save her.
Date published: 2015-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent book This was a fantastic book. The story was certainly hard to read in parts. Its hard to imagine how someone could endure what she did for so long. Such a brave and strong woman.
Date published: 2015-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mindbogglingly!! Absolutely unbelievable what this young woman went through and still survived! It's a five star from me.
Date published: 2015-02-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A house in the sky Powerful story. The story of this strong woman touches you in a big way. I am moved and inspired by her love for life and faith in the human race.
Date published: 2015-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent read A House in the Sky was quite possibly one of the most engrossing, heart wrenching and terrifying books I have ever read.
Date published: 2015-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The book that got me back into reading! I'd been starting and stopping reading, losing interest, for a number of months and really needed a good book to reignite my passion. Amanda Lindhout's book was it! I liked this book because it had elements of travel, culture, history, romance, and religion wrapped into one suspenseful, and quite gripping, memoir. I've never been someone who felt compelled to read all day or into the night, but with this book, I was. I finished this book feeling a deep connection to the author, and more aware of the state of Somalia. Highly, highly, recommend this title.
Date published: 2015-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A House in the Sky I was told about this book by a male friend of mine, and he said that it was a book that he normally wouldn't have read but he was glad he did. I immeadiatly bought the book. I couldn't put it down! Amanda's story was so heart wrenching and I found myself saying to her like I was there with her, hang on you will make it. Her story had details about cultures on the other side of the world that I did not know. For Amanda to be able to share such personal details of her ordeal is nothing short of heroic and for her to be able to forgive her captors for what they did is so inspirational. I would and have recommended this book to anyone I can. Thank you Amanda for being so generous with your thoughts and experience. Good luck in your ventures in Somalia.
Date published: 2015-01-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What a read A book about a courageous woman and her struggle as a captive in Somalia for over a year. Powerful, thought provoking and emotional.
Date published: 2014-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All people will learn truly human lessons from this book that they take with them through life. I ordered two copies of this book. One for myself and one to give to a woman I've never met who lives in Puerto Rico that I was in an online gift exchange with. I will buy more copies as gifts in the future. I remember seeing Amanda on the news when she was a captive and being afraid for her and frustrated that there seemed to be nothing that we, as Canadians, could do for her. I kept asking "why would she go to Somalia?" So one of the reasons I wanted to read the book was to gain an understanding of why she would go there. I gained much more than an understanding of that. This book is a testament to the amazing strength that the human spirit is capable of and of the awesome internal strength that women have. The strategies that she used in her mind to survive are incredible and the strategies she used with her captives were wise and intelligent and we can all learn from that. What she went through was a harrowing nightmare. That she survived and was able to tell her story is a blessing. Amanda has gone on to found a charity organization and gone back to Somalia to help the people there which is even more amazing! What an example of forgiveness and compassion. I highly recommend this book. Amanda's story is one that will stick with me through my life. When I have moments where I feel like I can't go on or I can't do something I will think of her and know that I can.
Date published: 2014-12-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A House in the Sky This is one of those books that every time I was in a bookstore would stop, pick it up, contemplate and then put back down and tell myself another time. When it was selected as Chapters Indigo's October pick for their #worldsbiggestbookclub I knew it was finally time to dive in. And am I ever glad I did. Such a powerful and moving read full of real emotion. This memoir either seems to speak to you or it doesn't. There are a number of reviews out there that seem to think that Amanda Lindhout may have gotten what she deserves. This is very disheartening. Yes, she may have exposed herself to danger and been naive in thinking she was invincible but no mater if you are traveling in a "safe" country or a war torn country you never know what can happen. No one deserves to be raped, beaten and torched. I found it hard to understand how she remained so positive during her whole ordeal and has even gone as far as to forgive her captors. Just goes to show how strong of a woman she is, and I have nothing but respect for her. I found the first third of the book very interesting, while others found it boring I began to develop jealousy towards Lindhout, she was traveling to all the countries I've only dreamed about visiting and living the dream that many will never get to experience. At the end of her memoir she mentions that Nigel wrote a book about his experience in Somalia and I would be very interesting on hearing his take on being imprisoned and his point of view. I am also excited that the book had been optioned into a movie and it will be very interesting to see how it comes out. What a true story of inspiration and perseverance
Date published: 2014-12-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Captivating! The courage in this story held me captive! Amanda is a very brave woman & I am so glad she shared her story.
Date published: 2014-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A House In The Sky This is a must read, a true story of a Canadian women held captive in for 14 months . Heartbreaking
Date published: 2014-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A House in the Sky This one will stay with me for a while. Since I finished reading, my mind returns again and again to memorable scenes, pivotal moments, and mystical insights. For most of us, international travel is an occasional money-depleting endeavour undertaken between long stretches of home, but for Amanda Lindhout, home was an occasional money-replenishing pastime undertaken between long stretches of international travel. Lindhout backpacked around the world, ticking off countries on an invisible list, comparing and contrasting the reality of them to National Geographic pages she thumbed through as a child. The National Geographic photos were one of the stable factors in an often turbulent childhood. The book begins with the stories of this childhood, which, if examined deeply enough, might merit a book of their own. Her memories of this time are both not really relevant and entirely relevant to the core of what this memoir is about: a kidnapping Somalia. For readers to understand how Lindhout ends up in Somalia at one of its most dangerous times in history, she needs to tell us the childhood and teenage events that shaped her, and she needs to delineate her evolution from "carefree young backpacker" to "aspiring war correspondent." And she needs to let us know how Nigel Brennan ended up along with her on such a horrific journey. This book takes reader on an up-and-down emotional ride: a downer of violence and alcohol abuse, an exciting ascending stretch of international travel to exotic locations, a gut-clenching plateau of apprehension because we know what lies ahead, a long, slow descent into horror, and finally an upward coast to healing, forgiveness and plans for the future. Lindhout gives an honest account of her missteps and her self-blame and guilt, especially when it comes to the complicated relationship with Nigel. She shares how she used the power of imagination and gratitude to persevere through months of boredom, and physical hardship. Lindhout and Corbett write a compelling story that, at the end of it all, is a tribute to the power of compassion and spirit. It stays with you for a while.
Date published: 2014-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A House of Courage and Inspiration I remember the time I met Amanda Lindhout and heard her speak. This was before I'd read the book, and what she shared in person moved me greatly and inspired me to tears. Yes, I was crying just from listening to the snippets of information she had shared about her life, her abduction, and the aftermath. From her younger years of traveling in search of freedom and independence, her years of coming into her own and finding her calling, to that fateful day and the 15 months that came after, "A House in the Sky" is written beautifully. It is descriptive as events unfolded without being clunky, it is reflective about the bigger picture of life, and it is introspective with the personal experiences of Lindhout. The biography's captivating engagement felt very much like Lindhout speaking directly to me in a very personal manner, just like she had in person even in a room full of people. This is when I know how very "her" it is, and how very difficult it must be for her to be so open and raw. While "A House in the Sky" is Lindhout's kidnapping and survival story, I must make mention of the issues that she touches on too - the engrained fundamentalistic upbringing of some of her extremist kidnappers that makes them believe that what they are doing is for a greater cause, and the poverty and torment that some of them has lived through that forces them to take desperate measures. Education is a key part in changing this. Lindhout knows it (as also reflected in Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea, no matter how contested it is), and she has done great respectable work since her release through the Global Enrichment Foundation which she founded. There is also the forgiveness that she has extended to her abductors, and to herself. Live and learn, and always hold hope. Amanda Lindhout is a person of strength, courage, and faith. What she has shared in "A House in the Sky" makes it one of those memoirs that will not let you go. It will constantly be a part of your memory and of your knowledge because of how powerful and affecting it is. It might not change your life drastically even though it has changed hers, but it will definitely at least make you stop and think about choices you have made and will make.
Date published: 2014-11-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Courage in "the Program? "Suddenly, the knuckles on one of my hands exploded in pain. Someone had kicked my hand to loosen my grip on the pole. I howled and let go.? The same hand that signed my copy? The same hand that penned her experience? OW! It stung me there. Before I got a copy, I first read a chapter at the library that was on display. The scene was a phone transcript conversation in the middle of the book and it had me there. I got the glimpse of why everyone is raving about this book and bought a copy. It shipped later with preorders in early October but returned it since I won a signed copy from Indigo?s Twitter contest, since I also read it now for their World?s Biggest Book Club discussion. I read reviews that said this book will touch you, stay with you, and often find that one story that makes you very emotional while reading. No duh because Ms.Lindhout?s blood sweat and tears are literally dried onto many copies. Others for instance said it?s dry, repetitive, and boring. I agree to both positive and negative comments because it was repetitive but what else is there to know when you?re kidnapped and held in hostage for so long? The fact that Ms.Lindhout has been able to revisit that experience and continue being the woman she is today, doesn?t only make her strong but very courageous. Brave too but she knew she was until she faced those months of torturing captivity.
Date published: 2014-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a brave, strong and amazing woman! Oh...my...god! There are no words. I was an ugly crying, blubbering mess for the last part of this book. I cried myself to sleep! I met Amanda Lindhout at a book signing recently and I know that she is healthy, smiling, beautiful and seems at peace but reading about what she went through ripped my heart out. This is most certainly the most difficult book I have ever read. Part of me wishes that I had never read it or that I could wipe the horror from my mind because I will never forget it. I'm pretty sure that years from now I still won't be able to talk about this book without crying.
Date published: 2014-10-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from worth reading I found the first 125 pages the most challenging to get through. I enjoyed reading about the author's background and how she came to want to travel with her world travels pre-kidnapping serving to lead us to meet Nigel, however, I also found them boring and a wee bit pretentious. Close to the end of those first 100 pages I started to feel restless waiting for the meat and potatoes so to speak to begin and I began skipping forward and then reading back. The middle part of the book, detailing the time in captivity was well written and while not being graphic detailed the abhorrent things that happened to her. I was particularly interested to read how she used her mind and places in her mind to help her survive. I would have liked very much to have had a more expansive ending. I felt a little disappointed as it felt quite abrupt. Nothing much was said about Nigel, although we hear he wrote his own book. I would have like some more details on her recovery in those first days. How are her parents coping paying for the ransom etc... All in all a fast, compelling read.
Date published: 2014-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A house in the sky Difficult to read at times but had to finish this book.
Date published: 2014-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Retired Unbelievable to start with later horrifying to think that people like the kidnappers do exist. Such courage to live through it and still be forgiving. Amanda, you are one of a kind. Y
Date published: 2014-10-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Strength, Hope, and Survival It was hard to stomach the experience this woman went through. I really admired her strength, courage and her fight for survival, it was inspiring and i'm glad she made it. I hope Amanda Lindhout can find peace in her life after her ordeal.
Date published: 2014-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hard to Put Down I can't remember why I decided to purchase this book. I know I read something positive about it somewhere and it was on my "to read" list. Well, I couldn't put it down. I was so drawn to Amanda. It seems somehow not right to say it was a good book. It was well written BU it took you to places no person should ever have to go to and have to endure. Bottom line, it is a book about survival. And survive she did. But at what cost? Not to sound overly dramatic, but while reading this book, I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about Amanda and her situation and not be able to get back to sleep. Once I finished it, I put the book on a shelf, almost afraid to touch it. I felt burned. I wish Amanda well and hope she finds peace for the rest of her life.
Date published: 2014-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well written and touching This book details the events leading up to , during her captivity and after her release. It was well written and dealt with issues such as poverty, desperation, ignorance, and the prisons, real or imaginary, that keep many of us from being really free. A worthwhile read.
Date published: 2014-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought provoking. Compelling and thought provoking. Whether you agree with the Amanda's motives or not, this book is hard to put down.
Date published: 2014-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Writing Perfection! This book is absolutely powerful and beautifully written. Everyone would enjoy this book!
Date published: 2014-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling Wow, the strength and courage Amanda has is indefinable. Her hope and determination. This is a story that will stick with me...
Date published: 2014-08-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Divided I received this book as a gift for my birthday last year. I don't generally read biographies or stories of this nature. On one hand, it was put together well by the author--there isn't much 'poor me, poor me' or blame placed on the rest of the world for having a rough start in her life, or what happened to her later in Somalia (which would have meant me putting the book down) but at the same time, I must agree with some other reviews here in that it was repetitive. I realize she needs to sculpt the story and can't really jump from day one to day 300 to omit any overlap, but I think she did succeed fairly well in not taking us too much through the menial, day-to-day existence she must have experienced more than we read about. There were moments in the book I found incredibly difficult to read, including the torture and sexual abuse she endured. While not graphic, per se, having spent a lot of time in her head and her world, only to read how she was so horribly treated, took its toll on me. I also found the finale, while the story ultimately ends with the positive ending and their release, to be rather anti-climactic. Nothing really... happens. Perhaps that's just me, but everything kind of shifts back to normal. I suppose in a way I was expecting that, though. So while I wouldn't say this was the most ground-breaking book I've ever read, I wouldn't toss it in the trash, either! If biography or real-life drama is your thing, you'll probably enjoy Ms. Lindhout's novel.
Date published: 2014-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Power of Hope and the Strength of the Human Spirit Beautifully written and deeply moving. This book will stay with me forever - by far, the best memoir I have ever read. Amanda Lindhout's strength and courage is inspiring. Although, at times, difficult to read because of the unimaginable cruelty and abuse described, the memoir is filled with a powerful message - hope always exists, even in the darkest of times and places.
Date published: 2014-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing true story, beautiful, horrific, courageous. I couldn't stop reading. This book will take your breath away. From an abusive household in Alberta, Canada as a child whose escape is found in old National Geographic books, Amanda has no idea how much she is learning about escaping into her mind or how much she will need this in her future. Her future as she sees it is travelling to the many countries she reads about. After she and her brothers move with her mother to a safe house, she starts planning for a future to include this travel. Amanda Lindhout's memoir is a masterpiece of how the mind can change itself whenever it needs to, how it compensates, over-rides, and deals with the worst kinds of trauma to keep lifeblood flowing. But not to get ahead of myself, first Amanda finds a way to earn enough money to finance a trip to South America. The first of many trips interspersed with coming home to work for more money. As a cocktail waitress, she has advanced through the ranks until she is in a place to earn high tips, enough to make a trip every year. This takes her to countries in South and Central America, Asia and Africa as what she considers a beginning to many more amazing places. The writing in this stage of the book is absolutely wonderful, bringing to mind all those National Geographics, while she backpacks her way through these countries, we feel we are seeing what she is seeing, experiencing what she is experiencing. She makes us feel what she is feeling, and it is consistently beautiful. Some countries like India and Pakistan she visits more than once, but then she begins to expand her horizons: Afghanistan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Ethiopia.... Between trips she turns again to cocktail waitressing, but her need to be somewhere exotic takes over every year, and each trip she gets deeper into dangerous territory. She travels fr a time with a freelance photographer, decides that next trip she wants to show the world to everyone. She becomes a freelance photojournalist, occasionally selling photos and stories to various papers and magazines. She has teamed up with Nigel, another freelance photographer, an Australian. When she decides to head into war zones, she asks him to join her and he semi-reluctantly does. Here the book shifts dramatically. It is 2008 and she has chosen to go into Somalia. Once in Somalia, known as the 'most dangerous country in the world,' everything changes. Although at first she and Nigel are enjoying the relatively 'safe' city of Mogadishu, on the fourth day she, Nigel, and their drivers are abducted by extremist Muslims. Assuming that all North Americans are rich, their abductors set an impossibly high ransom, which their parents are unable to even come near to paying and their respective governments have no intention of paying. Thus begins their ordeal which will last for 463 days of captivity and isolation. Kept in one room at first, they pretend they want to convert to Islam as a way of staying alive. They are visited sometimes by their captors wanting to learn English, and to teach them the Koran. As time goes by and their captors' demands are not met, they are moved from house to house, always in the dark. Nigel and Amanda escape from one of the houses and are recaptured. From that point on, the two are completely separated and are shackled; Amanda gets the brunt of punishment as a woman, which includes rape, beatings and torture but she is able to separate herself in her mind from what is happening, a product of her childhood days. She is kept in complete darkness, later she is also bound and gagged. As fever takes over, beatings and rape continue almost daily but she is now living in her mind and guided by a calmness brought on by what seems to be a voice and is able to use different approaches to this separation of her being and her mind. Her mind's eye sees a beautiful house, one that she constructs room by room, floor by floor, until it reaches the sky. A focus for survival. When finally rescued, neither Amanda nor Nigel are able to comprehend the fact that they are free. They can't comprehend that the food they are given is meant for them, they are fearful it will be taken away or they will be beaten. Both are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it will take a long time to learn how to handle that. It may never be gone. But Amanda has built that inner strength from her ordeals and although the fear is always with her, she becomes forgiving of many things, including forgiving herself. In the Epilogue, we learn that she founds a non-profit organization, the Global Enrichment Foundation to help provide and support education in Somalia, and partnering with other groups, funding scholarships to thirty-six Somalian women attending university, among other projects. This book is gut-wrenchingly real, powerful, and well-written; although the memories and fears of the atrocities are obviously very much a part of her, she has chosen to move on with her life in a positive way. This review is based on an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.
Date published: 2014-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible story of an amazing woman Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian freelance journalist, and Nigel Brennan, an Australian photographer, traveled to Somalia in the summer of 2008 to report on the war raging in this country. What should have been a one-week short trip turned into a 15-month nightmare when Amanda and Nigel were kidnapped by a group of rebels. This book tells Amanda’s harrowing and heartbreaking story. Deeply moving, it is very well written and manages to be strangely uplifting. Despite enduring starvation, torture and sexual abuse, Amanda Lindhout didn’t lose hope of one day being free. I met Amanda Lindhout when she came to Ottawa on Saturday 26 October 2013. She is a tall, skinny and beautiful young woman, with long dark hair. While she seemed to be doing okay, she told us that she suffers from severe PTSD and that she is afraid of the dark. She credits her family, her psychologist and meditation with helping her heal. She chose to forgive her captors, to let go of the anger and hatred. She explained that this is a gift to herself, not to her kidnappers. In May 2010, Amanda established the Global Enrichment Foundation to allow Somali women to get an education and to fund a famine relief program. Next fall, she is planning to go to university, and she would like to write a book on recovery. Please go to my blog, Cecile Sune - Bookobsessed, if you would like to read more reviews or discover fun facts about books and authors.
Date published: 2014-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredibly Captivating Absolutely one of the best memoirs I've read. Lindhout allows you to be part of her journey and really connect with where she's been and what she experienced. Her description of her early travels to South and Central America make you want to jump on a plane right away and her experiences make you question why you have yet to see these things for yourself. More importantly, the book was both awe-inspiring and eye-opening in the descriptions and details of her time in Somalia. Her description of the change in her mental and physical self is incredibly powerful alongside the constant question of what the future held.
Date published: 2014-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such a moving read! I was given this book from a friend from Christmas. I am SO glad I got it, as it was such a touching book. My mind was opened to what the world can really be like, we are told about stories on the news, but not quite how it really goes. I would recommend reading this book, it will open your eyes!
Date published: 2014-03-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Inspirational story about strength and forgiveness I discovered this book after reading an article on Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan's captivity in Somalia in MacLean's Magazine. A colleague of mine lent me Lindhout's book A house in the sky recounting the events leading up to the kidnapping, the months spent in captivity, their release and the struggle to move on past this traumatic event.  The inner battle that Lindhout carried out with herself to stay strong and hold on to life despite the abusive, violent and degrading acts committed by her abductors is inspirational. What impressed me most was her great compassion to understand the mindset of her kidnappers and her forgiving nature to move past all the wrongs that were done to her simply because she was a woman.  A very good read that challenges your views on humanity and spirituality. I have a lot of admiration for Lindhout's courage, strength and spiritual triumph. 
Date published: 2014-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Story of Strenght When I first picked up this book and started reading it, I didn't realize it was a true story. Amanda is a very strong woman and is an inspiration. I really enjoyed this book and had a very hard time putting it down to get other things done.
Date published: 2014-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautifully written After months of struggling to read any book at all, I devoured this book in days. I was initially drawn in by the beautiful cover and quickly became drawn in to the beautiful and heart wrenching story within. Amanda's story is eloquently told in A House in the Sky and leaves you contemplating not only the ugliness in this world, but the redemptive and risiliant power of the human spirit. Judge this book by it's cover. It is worth taking the time to read.
Date published: 2014-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A House In the Sky Well written.  I couldn't put it down.  Don't know where Amanda found her strength.
Date published: 2013-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amanda's strength is inspiring... The tale of how she survived the 460 days in captivity is a powerful and emotional roller-coaster where all readers can learn a thing or two about strength and perseverance.
Date published: 2013-12-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An amazing story An amazing story of strength and forgiveness.
Date published: 2013-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring & Beautiful I was first attract by the beauty of its cover but I then realized that it was an autobiography (I love love love non-fiction books!). I was scotch to this book from the beginning to the end. What an amazing story (horrible, frustrating, eye-opener, beautiful story!). Amanda Lindhout is one of the strongest person I had the chance to read about. I can't believe her humbleness, kindness & perseverance. Everyone should read her story. It is now in my top 5 favorite books.
Date published: 2013-12-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Repetitive, Disappointing The horrors the author experienced are something no person should have to endure and I am happy for her that she survived. However, the book is choppy and hard to read and Lindhout herself is hard to like.
Date published: 2013-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I could not stop reading this book. Excellent read and highly recommend everyone to read it
Date published: 2013-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The House in the Sky I couldn't put this book down. It is a true story and though it does get very graphic, it is not in a sensationalized way  . I found myself crying in many parts , so it is not for the faint of heart . I do  believe  it was written to  show the strength of the human spirit and how one can cling to life, trust,  and home, even in our darkest times.Amanda Lindhout is my newest hero and has a wonderful spirit about her.
Date published: 2013-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phenomenal This was a book that I had to force myself to put down. The author's experiences, both before and during her captivity, were so vivid that I almost felt like I was there. The story is mesmerizing. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Date published: 2013-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome story I could not put this book down, very well written. A great story of terrible events in the life of a woman, and how the human spirit can triumph. From here survival in an abusive household, and then her capture in Somalia, her physical and mental strength is astounding. I hope Amanda is happy and healthy and has found peace in her life.
Date published: 2013-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful..... If you only read one memoir this year, make it A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. Amanda Lindhout is from Alberta, Canada. As a young child living in a turbulent household, she collected and cashed in bottles. And what did she spend her money on? Old National Geographic magazines. Amanda escaped into the pages,dreaming of one day visiting the exotic places pictured. At nineteen she has saved enough money from waitressing to make those dreams a reality. Her first trip abroad is to Venezuela. "I had seen this place in the magazine, and now we were here, lost in it. It was a small truth affirmed. And it was all I needed to keep going." Lindhout repeats the cycle, earning, then travelling. She visits most of Latin America, India, Burma, Ethiopia, Syria, Pakistan, Sudan and dozens more. Her joy in exploring and experiencing new places and people is tangible. But, each trip she takes is a little further off the beaten path. And finally, she's travelling to some of the most war torn countries in the world. In Kabul, Afghanistan she begins a career as a fledgling freelance /journalist/photojournalist - with no formal training, associations or contacts. With some success under her belt, she heads next to Baghdad, Iraq to work as a reporter for Iran's Press TV. Moving on from there she decides to head to Mogadishu, Somalia in 2008 - bigger stories might help her career take off faster. She wonders if an old flame, Nigel Brennan, an Aussie photographer wants to join her. He does.......and four days after their arrival in Somalia, they are kidnapped by insurgents from an Islamic fundamentalist group. And, they are held.... for 460 days. "It was here, finally, that I started to believe this story would be one I'd never get to tell, that I would become an erasure, an eddy in a river pulled suddenly flat. I began to feel certain that, hidden inside Somalia, inside this unknowable and stricken place, we would never be found." A House in the Sky is Amanda's recounting of those 460 days. She is beaten, starved, chained up, kept in the dark, raped and tortured. These are the facts. “There are parts of my story that I may one day be able to recover and heal from, and, to whatever degree possible, forget about them and move on. But there are parts of my story that are so horrific that once they are shared, other people’s minds will keep them alive.” How she survives is a story that had me tearing up, putting the book down and walking away from it so many times. It's a difficult read, but is such a testament to the human spirit and will. Amanda names each of the houses they are held in - Bomb-Making House, Electric House, Tacky House and more. But it is the House in the Sky that had me freely sobbing - at the worst of times she builds a house in her mind, filled with the people she loves and the memories she treasures, the future she dreams of. "I was safe and protected. It was where all the voices that normally tore through my head expressing fear and wishing for death went silent, until there was only one left speaking . It was a calmer, stronger voice, one that to me felt divine. It said, 'See? You are okay, Amanda. It's only your body that's suffering, and you are not your body. The rest of you is fine.' " The journey to their release is gut-wrenching, incredibly powerful and impossible to put down. I stopped many times to look at the smiling author picture of Amanda on the back, wondering how in the world she survived. Survived and forgave. And as I turned the last page, I just sat. Sat and thought. This is a book that will stay with you, long after that last page. Read an excerpt of A House in the Sky. Amanda Lindhout is the founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation - "a non -profit organization that supports development, aid and education initiatives in Somalia and Kenya
Date published: 2013-09-18

Extra Content

Read from the Book

A House in the Sky 1 My World When I was a girl, I trusted what I knew about the world. It wasn’t ugly or dangerous. It was strange and absorbing and so pretty that you’d want to frame it. It came to me in photographs and under gold covers, in a pile of magazines, back-issue National Geographics bought for twenty-five cents apiece at a thrift store down the road. I kept them stacked on a nightstand next to my bunk bed. I reached for them when I needed them, when the apartment where we lived got too noisy. The world arrived in waves and flashes, as a silvery tide sweeping over a promenade in Havana or the glinting snowfields of Annapurna. The world was a tribe of pygmy archers in the Congo and the green geometry of Kyoto’s tea gardens. It was a yellow-sailed catamaran in a choppy Arctic Sea. I was nine years old and living in a town called Sylvan Lake. The lake was six miles long, a Pleistocene gash in the vast brown prairie of Alberta, Canada—well north of the Calgary skyline, well south of the oil rigs scattered around Edmonton, a hundred or so miles east of the Rocky Mountains, a solidly in-between place. In July and August, tourists came to float on the lake’s calm surface and toss fishing lines from the docks of their cottages. There was a downtown marina next to a red-topped lighthouse and a small amusement park where vacationers bought tickets to ride down a giant spiraling water slide or run through a play maze made from brightly painted plywood. All summer long, the sounds of laughing kids and the buzz of motorboats floated through town. We were new to Sylvan Lake. My mother, having split from my father a few years earlier, had moved my two brothers and me there from Red Deer, the small city where we’d always lived, fifteen minutes down the road. Russell, her boyfriend, had come with us, and so had his younger brother, Stevie. His uncles and cousins and other brothers and second cousins often dropped in on us for payday parties and ended up in our apartment for days, camped out in our living room. I remember their faces hoisted in sleep, their slim brown arms hanging from the sides of our chairs. My mother referred to Russell and his family as “Native,” but around town, people called them Indians. Our building was a white stucco fourplex with a pitched roof and dark wood balconies. The recessed windows of our basement apartment were small and narrow and let in next to no daylight. A green municipal Dumpster sat in the gravel parking lot outside. My mother, a fan of all things bright and tropical, hung a teal shower curtain in our new bathroom and draped a brightly patterned spread over her bed. Out in the living room, she parked her exercise bike next to our old brown sofa. People always looked at my mother. She was tall and lean, with dramatic cheekbones and dark permed hair she kept fluffed up around the ears. She had limpid brown eyes that suggested a kind of vulnerability, the possibility that she might be easily talked in and out of things. Five days a week, she put on a white dress with red piping and drove back to Red Deer to work a cash register at Food City. She returned with whole flats of generic-brand juice boxes, bought with her discount, which we stashed in the freezer and ate after school using spoons. Sometimes she came home with a plastic tray of bakery leftovers, Danishes and éclairs gone sticky after a day under glass. Other times she brought video rentals that we never returned. Russell worked only sometimes, signing on for a few weeks or occasionally a few months of contract work as a tree trimmer with an arbor company called High Tree, cutting limbs away from power lines along narrow roads. He was thin as a whippet and wore his dark hair long around his shoulders and feathered on the sides. When he wasn’t working, he dressed in thin silk shirts in colors like purple and turquoise. Etched on his left forearm was a homemade tattoo, a blue-lined bird with broad wings, an eagle or a phoenix, maybe. Its outline had begun to fade, the bird’s details washed into a pale blur on his skin, like something belonging on the body of a much older man. He was twenty-one to my mother’s thirty-two. We’d known Russell for years before he became my mom’s boyfriend, since the time he was thirteen, our families knit together by some combination of bad luck and Christian largesse. He had been raised on the Sunchild First Nation Reserve. His father had disappeared early; his mother died in a car accident. My mother’s parents, who lived about an hour’s drive from the reserve, ran a Pentecostal summer camp for First Nations kids and ended up taking in Russell and his four younger brothers as foster children. My mother and her siblings were long gone at that point, and the Native kids offered my grandparents a kind of second go-round at parenting. My grandfather was a welder, and my grandmother sold Tupperware—more Tupperware, in fact, than anybody in central Alberta, with regional sales records and a company minivan to prove it. For many years, they hauled Russell and the other boys along to church and prodded them through high school. They drove them to track meets and hockey games and to weaving classes at the Native Friendship Center. When the boys brawled, my grandmother sighed and told them to go on outside and get it all out. She forgave them when they stole money from her. She forgave them when they cussed her out. The boys grew into teenagers and then into young men. One made it to college; the rest ended up somewhere between the reserve and Red Deer. What nobody banked on, what Jesus himself might never have foretold, is that somewhere along the way, coming home to her parents’ farmhouse for visits and holiday meals, my mother—with her three little kids and imploding marriage to my father—would fall for Russell. * She called him Russ. She did his laundry for him. She liked to kiss him in public. Every so often he bought her roses. Early in my childhood, I’d thought of him like a sideways cousin, but now Russell—having moved directly from my grandparents’ house into mine—was something different, a hybrid of kid and grown-up, of kin and interloper. He did kickboxing moves in our living room and ate potato chips on the couch. Once in a while, he bought stuffed animals for me and my little brother, Nathaniel. “A funny little family” was what my grandmother called us. My older brother, Mark, put it differently. “A fucked-up little family” was what he said. I’d been to the Sunchild reserve a couple of times to visit Russell’s relatives, always over the protests of my father, who thought the place was dangerous but no longer had any say. Russell’s cousins lived in low-slung tract homes built along dirt roads. During our visits we ate bannock, a sweet, chewy fry bread, and ran around with kids who never went to school and drank cans of beer out of brown paper bags. Every house, as I remember it, had walls cratered with fist holes. I recognized the shape because Russell sometimes did it to the drywall at our house. My mother’s life with Russell might have been viewed as a kind of screw-you directed at all the white kids she went to high school with in Red Deer, most of whom still lived around town. My mother had left home at sixteen and gotten pregnant with Mark at twenty. Russell gave her an odd new cachet. He was young and mildly handsome and came from a place that people considered wild and unusual, if also dirty and poor. My mother wore beaded earrings and drove around town in a little white hatchback car, a feathered dream catcher fluttering from her rearview mirror. There was also the fact that my father, her early-twenties sweetheart, the man holding her babies in the delivery room photos, had recently announced that he was gay. A fit young guy with a big smile and a neatly trimmed beard named Perry had moved into my dad’s house. When we visited, Perry took us swimming at the rec-center pool, while my father, who had never cooked in his life, made us bachelor-style dinners. He rolled lunch-meat ham into cylinders speared with toothpicks and surrounded them with a few slices of cheese and some celery, adding a piece of bread on the side. He laid our plates on the table—all four food groups duly represented. My father had begun building his new life. He hosted dinner parties with Perry and enrolled in college to become a rehab practitioner and assist mentally disabled people. My mother, meanwhile, worked on her own resurrection. She read self-help books and watched Oprah on her off days. In the evenings, Russell poured rye whiskey from a big bottle into a tall plastic cup. My mother sat with her feet resting in his lap on our sofa in front of the TV. More than once, he pointed at the screen, at the moment’s hot cop or tidy-haired young dad. He’d say, “You think that guy’s good-looking, don’t you, Lori?” It was a flicker we all recognized. “I’ll bet,” Russell would continue, his eyes on my mother, “you wish you were with someone like that.” A pause. The TV man’s face would seem, in an instant, to melt and reshape itself into something more aggressive and leering. “Right, Lori? That’s what you’re thinking?” My mother responded gently. He’d broken some of her bones before. He’d hurt her badly enough to keep her in the hospital for days. As the rest of us stared hard at the television and the air in the room grew electric, she’d reach for Russell’s arm and squeeze. “No, baby,” she’d say. “Not even a little.” * Mark was thirteen and on the brink of a lot of things. He had a scraggly mullet, blue eyes, and a washed-out denim jacket he rarely removed. He was a solitary kid, given to roaming, the devoted owner of a slingshot made of hard plastic. Nathaniel, meanwhile, was six years old and had a cyst on his lower-right eyelid, giving him a baleful look. My mom and Russell doted on him, calling him “Bud” and “Little Buddy.” At night he slept in the bunk beneath mine, clutching a stuffed rabbit. It was Mark I followed around, trailing him like a dinghy behind a boat. “Check this out,” he said one day after school as we stood in front of the green Dumpster outside our apartment building. This was several weeks after we’d moved to Sylvan Lake, a warm afternoon in early fall. I was in fourth grade, and Mark had just started middle school. Neither one of us had many friends. The kids in our new town instantly had read us as poor and uninteresting. Mark planted his hands on the lip of the bin and boosted himself upward, slinging a leg over and dropping inside. Seconds later, his head bobbed up again, his face flushed, his hand wrapped around an empty Labatt bottle. He waved it at me. “Come on, Amanda,” he said, “there’s money in here.” Our Dumpster served as an openmouthed repository for the whole neighborhood’s trash, collected by a town truck every Wednesday. It became my brother’s version of a country club swimming pool. The interior, even on the crispest days of October, was soft and damp like an old leaf pile, smelling like sour milk. The two of us slid between mounded bags, their skins greased by leaked liquids and loose trash, our voices ringing tightly off the walls. Mark ripped into sealed garbage bags, pitching cans and bottles out onto the grassy strip in front of the apartment, rooting up lost quarters, old lipsticks, pill bottles, and Magic Markers, most of which he stuffed into his back pocket or tossed in my direction. Once he held up a fuzzy pink sweater, just my size, and gave a little shrug of outrage. “Jeez, what’s wrong with people?” We loaded the empties into plastic shopping bags and, smelling like old food and malt, carried them to the bottle depot in town. Twenty cans equaled a dollar. One Food City bag usually held fifteen cans. One bag x fifteen cans x five cents = seventy-five cents. A dollar-fifty for two bags; three bucks for four. And then the sum total divided in two—half for Mark and half for me. No fourth-grade math lesson could compare. The real money lay in what we called sixties or sixty-pounders—terms gleaned from Russell—the hefty sixty-ounce liquor bottles that got us an easy two dollars from the bottle depot man. These were our gold. Over time, Mark and I began to travel, a few blocks north and south of our street, over to the cul-de-sacs where single families lived in bungalows instead of apartments, visiting five or six garbage bins regularly. Better real estate, for the most part, meant better garbage. You’d be surprised at what people throw away, even poor people. You might find a doll with a missing arm or a perfectly good videotape of a perfectly good movie. I remember finding an emptied-out wallet, brown leather, with a delicate gold clasp. Another time I found a pristine white handkerchief with smiling cartoon characters embroidered on it. I kept them both for years, the handkerchief folded up neatly inside the wallet, a reminder of all that was pretty and still to be found. * I almost always blew my bottle money in one place, at a thrift store by the lake. The store was underlit and arranged like a rabbit’s warren, selling old clothes, porcelain knickknacks, and the literary detritus of summertime tourists—fat Tom Clancy thrillers and everything by Danielle Steel. The National Geographics were kept on a shelf in a far corner, their yellow spines facing outward and neatly aligned. Lured by what I saw on the covers, I took home whatever I could afford. I snapped up the mossy temples at Angkor and skeletons brushed free of volcano ash on Vesuvius. When the magazine asked ARE THE SWISS FORESTS IN PERIL?, I was pretty sure I needed to know. This is not to say that I didn’t, in equal measure, rummage through the Archie comics sold new in a different corner of the store, studying Veronica’s clingy clothes and Betty’s pert ponytail, the sultry millionaire’s daughter versus the sweet, earnest go-getter. Theirs was a language I was only just starting to understand. I kept the Archies in a drawer but put the National Geographics on a table in my bedroom. By Thanksgiving, I had accumulated probably two dozen. Sometimes I would fan them out like I’d seen on the coffee tables at the homes of some of the fancier kids from my old school. My uncle Tony—my father’s brother and the richest person in our family—was a subscriber. At night, in my top bunk in Sylvan Lake, I went through the magazines page by page, feeling awe for what they suggested about the world. There were Hungarian cowboys and Austrian nuns and Parisian women spraying their hair before going out for the night. In China, a nomad woman churned yak yogurt into yak butter. In Jordan, Palestinian kids lived in tents the color of potatoes. And somewhere in the Balkan Mountains, there was a bear who danced with a gypsy. The world sucked the dankness out of the carpet in our basement apartment. It de-iced the walkway outside, lifted the lead out of the sky over the plains. When at school a girl named Erica called across the hallway that I was a dirty kid, I shrugged like it didn’t matter. My plan was to move on, far away from my school and street and from girls named Erica. * One evening just before I started fifth grade, Carrie Crowfoot and I went walking around town. Carrie was a beautiful Blackfoot girl, a year older than I was, and one of my few friends. She had long black hair and almond-shaped eyes and eyelashes that stuck straight out. She was related to Russell somehow and had moved with her mother and brothers from the Sunchild reservation to Sylvan Lake. She lived in a house a few doors down from the thrift store and never went to school. At ten years old and with no money, Carrie still managed to work a brassy kind of glamour. She sassed the patronizing shopkeeper who sold us five-cent pieces of gum and bragged to me about various kids she’d beaten up when she lived at the reserve. When she came to my house, she never looked twice at our ratty furniture or Russell’s stray cousins lounging boozily in our chairs. I liked that she’d pronounced the dinner of crushed dry Ichiban noodles I’d served her “amazing,” that she’d recently enlightened me about what a blow job was. We wandered along Lakeshore Drive, heading toward the amusement park. A cool wind had picked up over the water. It was early September. Tourist season was pretty well over. The sidewalks were empty; a few cars hurtled past. Carrie complained often about how dull Sylvan Lake was, saying she wanted to move back to Sunchild. She was jealous that I got to stay with my dad in Red Deer on weekends. I might have told her it was nothing to envy, but the truth was, I counted down the days. My father’s house had plush carpeting and thick walls. I had my own bedroom with a brown ruffled bedspread and a cassette player with New Kids on the Block tapes and a collection of new paperbacks, entire sets of the Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins series. I said nothing about any of it to Carrie. At the marina, rows of powerboats floated in their dock slips. The amusement park lay dormant. The fiberglass waterslide stood drained for the night, skeletal against a pink sky. “You ever seen what’s in there?” Carrie asked, kicking a foot against a shuttered ticket kiosk. I shook my head. Before long, she’d found a way to pull herself up from the top of a garbage bin to straddle the high wall of the Crazy Maze, which zigzagged like a cattle fence around one edge of the park. Abruptly, she disappeared behind it. I heard sneakers hit pavement and then a laugh. I was a frightened kid, almost all the time. I was scared of the dark and I was scared of strangers and I was scared of breaking bones and also of going to doctors. I was scared of the police, who sometimes came to our house when Russell’s crew got noisy in our living room. I was afraid of heights. I was afraid of making decisions. I didn’t like dogs. I was supremely afraid of being laughed at. And in this moment, I had a sure feeling about what would happen next: Not wanting Carrie to make fun of me, I would scramble up the wall, get dizzy, fall down, break some bones. The police would come—strangers, all of them—and they would bring their dogs. Naturally, this would all happen in the dark, and then I’d have to go to the doctor. Which was why I almost turned on my heel and ran. But the way home was dark now, too, and I could hear Carrie calling from inside the maze. I heaved myself up onto the garbage can and boosted myself to the top of the wall. Then I jumped. As I landed, Carrie took off running. In the dim light, her hair seemed to glint blue. The interior walls had been painted with bright amateur renderings of clowns and cowboys and silly monsters—whatever would amp up the joy and light terror of summertime kids running free. Carrie Crowfoot and I would be friends only another six months. Her mother would move the family back to the Sunchild reserve sometime that spring. Before that, I’d start to get more interested in the kids I met at school and in school itself, getting chosen for an enrichment group for advanced students. Carrie would remain an outlier, uninterested in school and seemingly not required to go. A few years later, when I was finishing middle school, I would hear from my grandmother that Carrie had a baby. I wouldn’t know much more about how things went for her, because eventually, my family would purge all of them from our lives, Russell and Carrie and most everyone we knew during this time. Inside the maze that night, though, she was impossible not to follow. We were fast, corkscrewing around corners, screeching to a stop when we hit an abrupt dead end. When I think back on it, I imagine we might have squealed as we ran, heady with the moment’s disorientation. The truth is, we were serious and silent but for the sound of our thwupping sneakers and the rustling of our jackets. Carrie’s hair floated behind her as she charged ahead, sidewinding through the alleyways, caught up in the split-second decision-making about which way to go next. Finally, though, we allowed ourselves to relax and feel giddy, forgetting that it was dark and we were trespassing, forgetting everything that scared or haunted us, lost in the playland we’d never before seen. * High Tree, Russell’s arbor company, was having a big holiday party at a restaurant in Red Deer. My mother had been thinking about it for weeks. After her shifts at the supermarket, she’d go looking at dresses in the Parkland Mall, flicking through the sale racks. At home, she announced she was on a diet. We put up a Christmas tree in one corner of the living room, a raggedy pine that my mother had picked from the parking lot sale at Food City. She went to the Christmas Bureau in Red Deer, signed a paper attesting to the fact she had three kids and made seven dollars per hour, and picked up gifts for free. They’d been collected and wrapped by volunteers, embellished with colorful curling ribbons. I knew which two of the presents beneath the tree were for me because they were both labeled GIRL, AGE 9. A few days before the party, my mother got a new perm. She’d found a dress, which was hanging in her bedroom closet. It was black and shimmery, and already I’d spent a lot of time touching it. Now it was Friday night. Russell had showered and put on a pair of black pants and a collared shirt buttoned neatly up to his neck. He poured some rye and sat on the couch, pulling a squirming Nathaniel onto his lap. Stevie, Russell’s seventeen-year-old brother, was babysitting. We were waiting for my mother. The blow dryer hummed from the bedroom. Mark and Stevie clicked cassettes in and out of our boom box, fast-forwarding to the songs they liked, while I did math homework on the floor. Nathaniel, holding his stuffed bear, had drifted over to the TV and pressed his face close against the screen, trying to hear over the noise. Russell poured a second drink and then a third. He hooked one leg over the other and began good-naturedly to sing: “Loooori LoooooRIIII.” When she walked down the hallway, we all turned to look. Her black dress was short in the front and long in the back, cascading in a pile of ruffles that brushed the floor. Her thin legs flashed as she walked. She wore new shoes. As if following a script, Russell rose to his feet. My mother’s cheeks looked flushed, her eyes bright, her lips painted red. Her pale skin looked creamy against the black dress, which was so tight and shiny it seemed shellacked onto her body. We kids held our breath, waiting to hear what Russell would say. “Fucking A” was what he said. “You look awesome.” True enough, my mother looked like a movie star. She smiled and held out a hand to Russell. She kissed our cheeks to say good night. We were cheering, as I remember it, literally shouting with excitement about the grand time they would have. Russell put down his cup, found my mother’s dress-up coat, an ill-fitting mink number she’d inherited from my great-grandmother, and then he whirled her out the door. * That night we watched movies from our video collection. We watched Three Men and a Baby and then the new Batman. I made popcorn in the popper and passed it out in bowls. Somewhere in Red Deer, my mother was dancing with Russell. I imagined a ballroom scene with glittering pendant lights and wide-mouthed glasses of champagne. I dipped in and out of sleep until it was late and I woke up with a jolt. The TV screen was dark, the apartment silent. I pulled Nathaniel from his spot on the floor and guided him to the room we shared, nudging his sleepy body onto the bed. I climbed up into my bunk, a trace of holiday sparkle still lit in my head, and went to sleep for real. There was a surreal quality to what came next. There always was, if only because these things—when they happened—almost always happened in the middle of the night. My mother’s shouting would tunnel into my sleeping mind, gradually stripping the scenery out of my dreams, until there was no more clinging to unconsciousness and I was fully awake. Something crashed in our living room. There was a shriek. Then a grunt. I knew these sounds. She was fighting back. Sometimes I’d see scratch marks on his neck in the morning. The words were streaming out of Russell, high-pitched, hysterical, something about cutting out her eyeballs, something about blood on the floor, so much of it that nobody would know who she was. “You cunt,” I heard him say. Then a big thud, also recognizable: the sofa being flipped. I heard her run from the kitchen to the living room and down the hallway. I heard her panting outside our door before he caught her and threw her against it. I could hear him breathing, too, both of them seeming to gasp. In the bunk below me, Nathaniel started to cry. “Are you scared?” I whispered, staring at the dark ceiling. It was an unfair question. He was six years old. We had tried before to stop it. We had dashed out of our rooms and started yelling only to have the two of them, their eyes dark and wild, run to their bedroom and slam the door. If my mother wanted our help, she wouldn’t show it. Sometimes I’d hear Stevie in the hallway saying “Hey, cool it” to his brother. “C’mon, Russ.” But he, too, grew meek in the face of their fury. Eventually, a neighbor would call the police. A few times my mother had gone to the women’s shelter in Red Deer. She’d made promises to my grandmother and grandfather that she’d leave Russell, but before long they’d be back together. At the women’s shelter, there were shiny linoleum floors, lots of kids, and heaps of good toys to play with. I remember my father looking crushed when he came there to pick us up. The holiday-party fight wound down pretty quickly, my mother and Russell stalking back into each other’s arms, my popcorn strewn across the living room, the couch frame broken, a fresh hole in the wall. I knew how these things went. The next morning Russell would weep and apologize to all of us. For a few weeks, he’d be repentant. He’d sit in the living room with his head down and talk to God, looping through the language we knew from our grandparents’ church—dear Lord our savior in your name blessed be your son please save me from Satan yours is the way and in Jesus Christ thank you and amen. In the evenings, he’d make a big show of going to A.A. meetings. My mother, for those weeks, would have more power. She’d order Russell around, telling him to pick up his clothes and run the vacuum cleaner. But the needle on some unseen inner gauge would start to quiver and creep back toward red. The contrition would slip away. My mother would blithely go out one afternoon to get her hair cut and come back, by Russell’s estimation, late. He’d be waiting on the couch, his voice a flipped blade. “What took you so long, Lori?” And “Who were you meeting, all whored up like that?” I’d watch my mother blanch as it dawned on her that the jig was up, that before long—maybe tonight, maybe three weeks from now—he’d go nuts on her again. I couldn’t profess to understand it. I never would. I just tried to move past it. By the time the lights were off and all the bodies had settled, I was gone, launched. My mind swept from beneath the bed-sheets, up the stairs, and far away, out over the silky deserts and foaming seawaters of my National Geographic collection, through forests full of green-eyed night creatures and temples high on hills. I was picturing orchids, urchins, manatees, chimps. I saw Saudi girls on a swing set and cells bubbling under a microscope, each one its own waiting miracle. I saw pandas, lemurs, loons. I saw Sistine angels and Masai warriors. My world, I was pretty certain, was elsewhere.