Monday, July 20, 2015

Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland

Hope: A Memoir of Survival in ClevelandHope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book because my husband got it for his birthday and also because he's from Cleveland, the location of the house of horrors, where three young women--Amanda, Gina and Michelle-- were held captive for a decade. The book is based largely on Amanda's diaries and Gina's recollections. The young women tell how their jailer, Ariel Castro, tried to control every aspect of their lives, They paint his portrait in true and unflattering colors.

Amanda and Gina emerged unbroken from the house on Seymour Avenue. Their love of life and their senses of humor were intact. They were ready to move on. Their captor, on the other hand, killed himself after a  few months in custody, unable to endure the thought of spending the rest of his life in prison. Ariel comes off as a narcissistic control freak who saw himself as a victim.  Yes, he beat his common-law wife nearly to death, but it was her fault for always complaining about nothing. Yes, he robbed the girls of their youth and freedom, but it was their fault for trusting him enough to get into his car. Yes, ten years was a long time to spend under lock and key, but it was the fault of the police and the FBI for being too stupid to find them sooner. Yes, he had sex with them repeatedly whenever he wished, but it was not rape. It was “consensual.” He saw himself as “normal, but sick.” He described himself as “coldhearted,” admitting that he lacked empathy and compassion. He clearly enjoyed tormenting the girls by arbitrarily revoking the few pathetic privileges he granted them. Yet this sociopath adored Jocelyn, the baby girl he fathered. Even Amanda, the baby’s mother, had to admit that he treated his little girl well. As Jocelyn reached school age, however, she began asking embarrassing questions that her father couldn't answer. Amanda finally realized that Ariel would never let them go, despite vague promises. She once lost an almost perfect chance to escape and deeply regretted it. The next time an opportunity arose, she choked back her fear and seized it.  Best wishes to her, Jocelyn, Gina and Michelle for many wonderful years to come.

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