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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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