Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Real Horror Story

Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, A Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings by Michelle Knight
Reviewed by Diane K. M.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is a horrifying memoir. Michelle Knight had a traumatic childhood that included abuse, neglect and molestation, and she ran away from home when she was 15, during which time she slept under a bridge and briefly worked for a drug dealer. In 2002, when she was 21, she was kidnapped by a Cleveland bus driver named Ariel Castro and then held captive in his house for almost 11 years. While she was imprisoned, she was frequently raped, beaten, starved and abused.

During those hellish years, Castro kidnapped two other girls, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, and also kept them chained in the house. Michelle often begged Castro to let her go so she could see her son again (on the day she was kidnapped, she had been on her way to court to see if she could regain custody of her son, Joey) and Castro would often beat her if she started crying. With three kidnapped girls in the house, he said he wanted them all to be a happy family. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This warped dude had kidnapped me, beat me, and raped me every day -- and he expected us to be a family? I knew he wasn't just sick; he was a total psycho. He was living in his own fantasy world -- and I had to find a way out of it."

The women would sometimes talk about trying to escape, but Castro had rigged the house with elaborate locks and alarms, and he frequently carried a gun and threatened to kill them if they disobeyed him.

"He kept his gun on his hip most of the time, but to be honest with you, he didn't really have to. By 2008 we were trained. After years of being in prison a crazy thing starts to happen: the locks move from off of your wrists and your ankles and up to your brain ... After you've been raped, humiliated, beaten, and chained for so long, you get into the habit of doing what you're told. Your spirit starts crumbling. You start not to be able to imagine anything different. And it feels like your captor is all-seeing and all-knowing."

In May 2013, Amanda noticed that an inner door was left unlocked and she called out to a neighbor, who broke a hole in the storm door so she could crawl out. She was able to call 911 and police soon rescued Michelle and Gina. Castro was arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

"Some of what he said in court made me furious. He talked about his porn addiction and how he was abused when he was a kid. I had heard it all before. Plenty of people get abused, but they don't go out and kidnap three women. I didn't feel sorry for him; I was still angry."

One month into Castro's sentence, he was found dead in his cell, hanging by a bed sheet. It was ruled a suicide. "What a punk! I wanted him to sit in his cell and rot away a little bit at a time for the rest of his life, just like he forced me to do. 'He couldn't even deal with one month of the torture that he put us through,'" Michelle later told Gina.

"Finding Me" is plainly written and the style could be immature, but it was so engrossing that I finished it in just two sittings. However, the book is so disturbing that parts of it made me ill. I would not recommend it to sensitive readers. If you were upset by Emma Donoghue's novel "Room," about a 5-year-old boy and his mother who are held captive in a small shed, then you should avoid Michelle's memoir, because it is a real horror story.

1 comment:

  1. I read some of her story in People's Magazine. She stole my heart when she talked about those horrible years and how she would think of her son and her son only. His memories are what gave her strength :( Her book finally became available at my local library, so I checked it out and now I'll be able to finish hearing about her story.