We named the houses they put us in. We stayed in some for months at a time; other places, it was a few days or a few hours. There was the Bomb-Making House, then the Electric House. After that came the Escape House, a squat concrete building where we’d sometimes hear gunfire outside our windows and sometimes a mother singing nearby to her child, her voice low and sweet. After we escaped the Escape House, we were moved, somewhat frantically, to the Tacky House, into a bedroom with a flowery bedspread and a wooden dresser that held hair sprays and gels laid out in perfect rows, a place where, it was clear from the sound of the angry, put-upon woman jabbering in the kitchen, we were not supposed to be.
When they took us from house to house, it was anxiously and silently and usually in the quietest hours of night. Riding in the backseat of a Suzuki station wagon, we sped over paved roads and swerved onto soft sandy tracks through the desert, past lonely-looking acacia trees and dark villages, never knowing where we were. We passed mosques and night markets strung with lights and men leading camels and groups of boisterous boys, some of them holding machine guns, clustered around bonfires along the side of the road. If anyone had tried to see us, we wouldn’t have registered: We’d been made to wear scarves wrapped around our heads, cloaking our faces the same way our captors cloaked theirs—making it impossible to know who or what any of us were.
The houses they picked for us were mostly deserted buildings in tucked-away villages, where all of us—Nigel, me, plus the eight young men and one middle-aged captain who guarded us—would remain invisible. All of these places were set behind locked gates and surrounded by high walls made of concrete or corrugated metal. When we arrived at a new house, the captain fumbled with his set of keys. The boys, as we called them, rushed in with their guns and found rooms to shut us inside. Then they staked out their places to rest, to pray, to pee, to eat. Sometimes they went outside and wrestled with one another in the yard.
There was Hassam, who was one of the market boys, and Jamal, who doused himself in cologne and mooned over the girl he planned to marry, and Abdullah, who just wanted to blow himself up. There was Yusuf and Yahya and Young Mohammed. There was Adam, who made calls to my mother in Canada, scaring her with his threats, and Old Mohammed, who handled the money, whom we nicknamed Donald Trump. There was the man we called Skids, who drove me out into the desert one night and watched impassively as another man held a serrated knife to my throat. And finally, there was Romeo, who’d been accepted into graduate school in New York City but first was trying to make me his wife.
Five times a day, we all folded ourselves over the floor to pray, each holding on to some secret ideal, some vision of paradise that seemed beyond our reach. I wondered sometimes whether it would have been easier if Nigel and I had not been in love once, if instead we’d been two strangers on a job. I knew the house he lived in, the bed he’d slept in, the face of his sister, his friends back home. I had a sense of what he longed for, which made me feel everything doubly.
When the gunfire and grenade blasts between warring militias around us grew too thunderous, too close by, the boys loaded us back into the station wagon, made a few phone calls, and found another house.
Some houses held ghost remnants of whatever family had occupied them—a child’s toy left in a corner, an old cooking pot, a rolled-up musty carpet. There was the Dark House, where the most terrible things happened, and the Bush House, which seemed to be way out in the countryside, and the Positive House, almost like a mansion, where just briefly things felt like they were getting better.
At one point, we were moved to a second-floor apartment in the heart of a southern city, where we could hear cars honking and the muezzins calling people to prayer. We could smell goat meat roasting on a street vendor’s spit. We listened to women chattering as they came and went from the shop right below us. Nigel, who had become bearded and gaunt, could look out the window of his room and see a sliver of the Indian Ocean, a faraway ribbon of aquamarine. The water’s proximity, like that of the shoppers and the cars, both comforted and taunted. If we somehow managed to get away, it was unclear whether we’d find any help or simply get kidnapped all over again by someone who saw us the same way our captors did—not just as enemies but enemies worth money.
We were part of a desperate, wheedling multinational transaction. We were part of a holy war. We were part of a larger problem. I made promises to myself about what I’d do if I got out. Take Mom on a trip. Do something good for other people. Make apologies. Find love.
We were close and also out of reach, thicketed away from the world. 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.
Revue de presse
“Lindhout manages to tell her story and to transcend it. Her account stands as a nonfiction companion to Emma Donoghue’s shattering, haunting novel about captivity, Room.” (Emily Bazelon Slate)
“A poetic, profound, and thrilling exploration of one woman’s misadventure set against the backdrop of global terrorism…Elegant and evocative.” (Rebecca Johnson Vogue)
“A great book…The lesson [Amanda Lindhout] taught me and others who know this remarkable young woman is: What matters is not how you got there, but what you do once you’ve arrived.” (Robert Draper ELLE)
“[A] harrowing, beautifully written memoir….The wide-eyed optimism and unflappable determination that led [Amanda Lindhout] to danger also kept her alive…A brave, compassionate and inspiring triumph.” (Korina Lopez USA Today (4-star review))
“A riveting memoir…” (Good Housekeeping)
“A searingly unsentimental account…Ultimately, it is compassion—for her naïve younger self, for her kidnappers—that becomes the key to [Lindhout’s] survival.” (Holly Morris O, the Oprah magazine)
“Keenly observed and sprinkled with arresting details, A House in the Sky is more than one woman’s heartbreaking tale of captivity. The book sheds light on a conflict area not often painted with nuance. It dares to explore the outer reaches of human empathy. A stunning, haunting, and redemptive read, Lindhout’s story is one that stays with you long after the book has been closed.” (Grace Bello The Christian Science Monitor)
“An elegant and wrenching memoir…” (The Daily Beast)
“[A] remarkably keen-eyed, honest, and radiant memoir…Moving and informative reading for everyone.” (Barbara Hoffert Library Journal)
“Writing with immediacy and urgency, Lindhout and Corbett recount the horrific ordeal in crisp, frank, evocative prose. But what readers will walk away with is an admiration for Lindhout’s deep reserves of courage under unimaginable circumstances.” (Kristine Huntley Booklist (starred review))
“A vivid, gut-wrenching, beautifully written, memorable book…” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“A well-honed, harrowing account…” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“A vivid and moving account of how Amanda kept alive the inner light and the spirit of forgiveness even as she found herself in the heart of darkness.” (Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth)
“A House in the Sky is a stunning story of strength and survival. It is sometimes brutal, but always beautiful as Amanda Lindhout discovers that in a fight for her life, her most powerful weapons are hope and compassion.” (Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle and The Silver Star)
“This is one of the most powerfully-written books I have ever read. Harrowing, hopeful, graceful, redeeming and true, it tells a story of inhumanity and humanity that somehow feels deeply ancient and completely modern. It is beautiful, devastating and heroic—both a shout of defiance and a humbling call to prayer.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things)
“In this lyrical and inspiring book, Amanda Lindhout describes humanity's capacity for cruelty. Yet she also brings to life the deep compassion and courage that resides in all of us. A story of grace, insight and tenacity, A House in the Sky shows us the power and importance of perseverance, hope and forgiveness.” (David Rohde, Reuters columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Rope and a Prayer and Beyond War)
“A House in the Sky is the riveting story, exquisitely told, of a young woman’s passionate quest to create an uncommonly large life, against all odds. Amanda Lindhout’s journey is a singular one, an epic adventure that ranges from colorful to gripping, in which the stakes are nothing less than absolutely everything. With stunning honesty and clarity, Lindhout and Corbett have made certain of two things: No reader will ever forget this book—or be able to put it down.” (Susan Casey, author of The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean)
“An amazing, mesmerizing tale that shows international terrorism at a shockingly personal level. Lindhout's strength of character shines through on every page.” (Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side)
“If you have ever wondered how extraordinary people overcome physical and mental anguish, you must read A House in the Sky. Amanda Lindhout's riveting account of strength and survival will inspire and leave a lasting impression.” (Jared Cohen, author of The New Digital Age)