By: Jessica Buchanan and Erik Landemalm
with Anthony Flacco
Publisher: Atria Books
Published: May 14, 2013
Genre: Nonfiction (Adult)
Somehow when I selected this book, I had not heard the story of Jessica Buchanan’s kidnapping in Somalia in 2006, nor her rescue several months later. Curiosity perhaps led me to select this book from NetGalley.
Jessica and Erik’s story is harrowing, life-threatening and emotionally tumultuous. Their story is not always easy to read.
Fortunately, the book’s rapid-fire start with Jessica’s kidnapping occurring within the first third of the book captivates the reader. Jessica and Erik are working in an area of Somalia considered unsafe, but despite this, Jessica’s NGO requires her to travel across the Green Line, an invisible line to the naked eye and on maps but well-known to the peoples it divides. The area, its culture and traditions are well described leaving an uneasy feeling about anyone’s safety who is not from the area.
Detailed information about their roles in Somalia is provided, and it is clear that as a woman, a westerner and a social worker, Jessica is a high risk. The love and concern that flows between Jessica and Erik about an upcoming trip she must make adds significant tension to the story. The book is quick-paced and filled with apprehension.
Despite the subject, the language used is full of imagery and flows well. Some examples follow:
their first day in captivity
passing from one world back into another
Details of the kidnapping and the lengthy negotiations for Jessica’s return are nerve-wracking and often I felt tangled in the battle to free Jessica, who is after some time ill and in need of medicine and medical care.
The book relates a growing relationship between Erik and Jessica’s father and siblings, how they handle negotiations for ransom, the efforts of our country including the FBI and CIA to free Jessica, and the cooperation among all to free Jessica . . . and suddenly Seal Team Six frees Jessica and brings her home to her husband.
This is where I became disenchanted. After all Jessica’s worry if her poor health will keep her from getting pregnant, something she and Erik have longed for but have been unsuccessful in accomplishing, and the risk to their marriage from all that has happened to Jessica during her kidnapping, not much is written about how the two handled a return to their marriage and work, moving forward, and eventually having a son.
Having read through the tension and details of all that had gone before, closing the book with some knowledge of how they successfully made it through the aftermath would have been rewarding. Unless, they are perhaps planning a sequel.
I leave it to you to decide. This book is well written, descriptive, as far as I can tell culturally accurate. Beware, however, that I felt it ended rather poorly for a book with so much energy, mystery, and apprehension throughout.
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Meet the Authors:
Jessica Buchanan was born in Portland, Oregon, but spent her formative years growing up outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2003, Buchanan moved to the greater Philadelphia area to pursue a degree in education, and she began to travel during her summer months, teaching and volunteering in Honduras, South Sudan and Rwanda. She secured a student teaching position at an international school based in Nairobi, Kenya, The Rosslyn Academy, and was offered a full time teaching position at that school, which she happily accepted. She later moved to Hargeisa, Somaliland, where she was offered a job as the education advisor for the Danish Demining Group, the mine action unit of the Danish Refugee Council.
Erik Landemalm was born outside of Stockholm, Sweden, and did military service in the Swedish Navy’s Counter Special Operations Forces Unit as a Conscript Sergeant. He attended the University of Örebro in Sweden and the University of Newcastle in Australia. In early 2006, after having already worked with Somalia issues for various Swedish government agencies, Landemalm moved to Somalia to manage a program working with prison reforms and to set up Human Rights standards for the legal sector in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. While working in Somalia, he also spent time working on programs in Zimbabwe and Kenya for the Swedish NGO, Diakonia. Landemalm started managing projects for a European Parliamentary association with a focus on helping the legislative institutions in Puntland and the unrecognized self-declared state of Somaliland build up their capacity and infrastructural needs. For his projects achievements in Somaliland, the President of Somaliland, on behalf of their Parliament, gave his project a certificate of appreciation in June 2011.
Landemalm and Buchanan have relocated to the United States and are now living in the Alexandria, Virginia area where they continue their humanitarian efforts to ensure a better quality of life for those in need.
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I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.