"There is no magic that can keep a child a child, or shield a child from the world at large. That was where the trouble almost always began, with a parent trying to out think fate. Stay on the path. Don't touch the spindle. Don't speak to strangers. Don't touch the rose."
"A line from a poem came to her, something about the people who never got suffering wrong. Yet in Eliza's experience, everyone, even most victims, got suffering wrong. That's why it was better never to speak of it.This story is about an adult woman, Eliza, who was kidnapped as a young teen, and held captive for six weeks by her abductor, before she was rescued -- and actually rescued with the assistance of her kidnapper. In reading this book, I just couldn't help but wonder if the story wasn't inspired in part by Jaycee Dugard's kidnapping. I have a writer's mind myself, and I know news stories often spin off into threads in my mind, and I want to create a reality and explanations around them.
In this book, the kidnapper had actually kidnapped and killed several other girls. In fact, he kidnapped a girl while he was holding Elizabeth (Eliza's actual name, which she changed after her rescue). And he murdered that girl while Elizabeth sat in his truck nearby. Eliza is haunted by the fact that there were points at which she could have gained her own freedom, but hadn't, and there was a point at which she could have saved the girl who was murdered, and didn't.
Throughout the story the questions swirl of why Eliza was not killed when the other girls were, and also why she didn't save herself and the other girl. And of course, as you can probably guess, the answers to those two things are linked. She survived because she was compliant. Part of being compliant involved not escaping when she might have, not getting help for the other girl when she might have. Nor was it simply the compliance itself that saved her, but the feelings her kidnapper developed towards her because of it. It is directly stated that the other girl was killed because she wasn't compliant, because she was unpleasant and because she fought back. And all this unfolds in conversations that Eliza ends up having when her kidnapper, who is facing imminent death by lethal injection, manages to contact her.
So you can all probably see where I am going with this, where this leads me. When Jaycee was found alive, one of the fears I stated out loud was that if Garrido had taken Michaela first, he might not have kept her alive, because Michaela would not have been compliant. She would have fought. At least I'm pretty certain that she would have. It was her nature, and it was her training. You know, those child safety classes always teach the kids to fight. Kick, scream, scratch, any number of a million defensive techniques that they advise the kids to use against attackers, kidnappers. But I have to wonder, how often do those techniques work? A child is never going to be a match for the strength of an adult male. Never. Are we teaching them incorrectly? Would we be better off teaching them to be compliant but always be on the lookout for a means of escape, and to take it?
This is what I think of when I read that first quote, the one about parents trying to out think fate. "This is where the trouble begins." What does the author mean by that? I couldn't tell, even from the context. The narrator certainly seemed to advocate trying to keep kids safe, and teaching them not to talk to strangers, etc. What could it be referring to except for our insistence on teaching kids to fight back against abductors? Even though this had not been raised at that point in the book, is that where the trouble begins?
I don't know. I honestly don't know the answers to these questions. It makes me think that I have no business trying to teach kids to be safe, or trying to teach parents to keep their kids safe. At the end of the book, Eliza talks about the burglar alarm system that her family has installed, its beep beep beep when it is activated, and how she knows that even that is not going to keep them safe if someone actually means them harm. The other day I was talking to someone about wanting to keep a person safe by having them stay home instead of going on a trip at a particular time, and he said no, don't tell them to stay home. If it is meant to be, the plane will crash on their house.... I don't say these things in order to bring you down, by the way. Perhaps I say them in order to free you a little bit, to help you move from living in fear to living in faith.
Ultimately I just say them to let you know that I don't have the answers. I wish I did.
And I have to end this post, as so many others, by addressing Michaela. If you are out there alive somewhere, Michaela, and you have stayed alive by compromising and being complacent, for goodness' sake do not feel bad about that. Do not feel guilty, do not feel unworthy. As Eliza says in the book, if she survived because she was weak, then she was glad she was weak, because she is happy to be alive. Michaela, if you are alive, I would only be glad that you are alive. Nothing else matters. There is nothing else that cannot be healed with enough love, and not only my heart but the world as a whole holds enough love for you that we can overcome anything.
I love you, sweetheart.