We all know the story of the "Cleveland Kidnapping." The three girls kept captive in house, not far from their childhood homes, for ten years. The one, the blond, breaking free- with her child (who was far younger than ten... and all that alluded to), and her 9-1-1 call that brought freedom to the other two captives. We watched the viral remixes of Charles Ramsey, just a neighbor trying to enjoy a little McDonald's lunch on his front lawn tell cameras, I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms.
I watched the news stories, the interviews, read the articles, and yet I was left with so many questions. How could this happen? How could this go on for ten years? The more details that were uncovered, the more confusing it became. The story was surreal. I remember commenting at one point that if it were a Lifetime movie, I wouldn't even watch it because the story was just too unbelievable. Yet, it was true.
Reading this book did not make it less confusing, it only raised more questions. Michelle Knight writes from the perspective of wanting us not to forget all those who have been abducted and/or are missing. Instead though, I think her message should more directly hit those of us who often turn a blind eye or shrug our shoulders when something just doesn't "seem right." Over ten years, how many people in that neighborhood, in that terrorist's family, had just allowed this monster's power to grow by not asking the right questions or telling the right people. How many other victims in other situations could be saved if the right person in the right place reacted to that feeling, but how often do we for fear of being wrong, for over-reacting, for offending someone?
I watched Michelle Knight's 2-day interview with Dr. Phil. For that reason, I already knew much of the story that she told in the book. Also for that reason, I could really hear her voice telling the story. Although she had a co-writer, her voice is still strong in telling her own story. There are several parts of the memoir that are emotionally tough to ingest, such as the repeatedly induced abortions. For the most part though, the specific details of abuse are generalized- chains, coldness, starvation, rape, blows to the head. At first it would appear that perhaps Knight had to emotionally detach herself from the living Hell to describe it. Further into the recounts of her time in that house with the boarded windows, gated yard, and padlocked doors though, I came to think that there is just too much to detail. For over ten years her daily routine was abuse and lying in wait for more abuse. The last book I was reading before moving to this was a Holocaust memoir. The writer stated that a time came when life became one never-ending night. That describes the life Knight details. Time was only punctuated by the sweltering heat or freezing cold of their bedroom dungeons without clothes and blankets, or time was punctuated by Christmas songs on a small radio that made her miss the two year-old left behind.
In a way the ending is anti-climatic. We, of course, know how it ended. Know she was rescued- maybe even already knew that Ariel Castro was charged with over 900 crimes and killed himself after just a few months in prison, having lived just a shadow of the life he enforced upon the three girls. There is just no way to term this a "happy" ending though- from the stolen years to the long-term effects, mentally and physically, from the years of abuse, and the trails of neglect and abuse from her family even before abduction. It is deeply sad that there was no great effort to find her- no flier, no news report, not even a call to the police- details her captor loved to remind her. It is perhaps even more sad that Knight has to come to accept that the very thought that gave her the strength to sustain the decade of torture, a reunion with her son, was a fleeting hope.
Hope, though, is the pervading tone through this memoir. Sometimes it's a whisper from the grasps of death and at other times a shout from the pages of a rescued journal. It is a story worth reading because it reminds us what it is like to be human... and the depths to which humans can fall... to be filled with hope... and to be enveloped by indescribable evil. It is near impossible to understand how both can exist in human souls.