Allison Benedikt of Slate reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Elizabeth Smart's memoir has been in bookstores since early October, but I guarantee that anyone who read "My Story" back then is still thinking about it today.
Smart was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home on June 5, 2002. She was 14 years old, asleep in the bedroom she shared with her sister, when Brian David Mitchell, a homeless man in town hired by Smart's parents to do a few odd jobs, held a knife to her throat, and said only, "Don't make a sound. Get out of bed, or I'll kill you and your family."
For the next nine months, Smart faced unimaginable horrors, and survived them. Mitchell took her to his camp high up in the mountains, where he and his wife kept her chained and in constant fear. She was raped every day, deprived of food and water, and mentally abused to the point that, even when a police officer approached her, suspicious that she might be that missing girl on all the posters, she was too afraid to speak up.
You think, "How could you not say anything, Elizabeth!" But reading the book, you also understand.
The prose in "My Story" is not beautiful, and the tale is not always well told, but when Elizabeth is finally rescued, when she is finally able to tell a police officer, "I am Elizabeth," it's a moment of emotional impact far greater than the grueling brutalities that led up to it.
She writes in the final pages of the book, "I have been alive for 307 months. Nine of those months were pretty terrible. But 298 of those months have been very good. I have been happy. I have been blessed. Nine out of 307 seems like pretty good odds."
Elizabeth Smart's story is one of incomprehensible resilience, and for that alone, worth reading.
Find more reviews of new books in the Slate Book Review at slate.com/books.