Published in 2013, A House in the Sky is a memoir of a woman’s desire to travel to all ends of the earth, driven by adventure and a desire to find something beautiful in even the most war-torn regions. This memoir is an insight into the circumstances of traveling alone, as a woman and as a Westerner, in foreign lands. Amanda ultimately finds herself in the heart of what is widely known as “hell on earth” – Mogadishu, Somalia.
This book is captivating not for its drama and shock value – of which there is plenty – but for its absolute humanness and sense that Amanda’s ordeal could happen to any woman, anywhere.
Retaining a strong will and an innate sense of hope, Amanda is held captive for 460 days by Somali crooks hoping for a large ransom from her family.
What is truly harrowing about this tale is her isolation and unlikelihood of ever being found or rescued. She suffers loneliness and a (reasonable) fear of being assaulted because she is a woman in male captivity, protected by no laws or international treaties. This story brings to life the plight of many women across Africa and in patriarchal nations where women are not only second class citizens, but even a third or fourth class. Because Amanda is a woman, Western, and white (and therefore seen as privileged by her captors) only serves to put her in more immediate danger.
It is a tragedy that Amanda had to endure even one minute of the events that took place in Somalia, and therefore it is a tragedy that this true story was written in the first place. However, this story is at once beautiful, magical, and heartwarming. It somehow translates into a tale of survival, the power of the human spirit, and the aptitude of her will. This book is written in a prose of adventure and is told with forethought, intelligence and desperation. It is a paradox, then, because it would be tragic had this tale never been written.
Amanda is both innocent and worldly, and I highly recommend this book to everyone. Without detailing Amanda’s ordeal in full, the book follows her amazing journey through warzones, poverty, and patriarchal societies. She does this at will, living in conditions that most of us wouldn’t even think about. This is why Amanda demands to be heard and have her story told. What happens to her is not her life, but a mere part of it. However, she will take it with her wherever she goes, and I will too, as a reader and from having learned from her experience. It is a tale of a woman’s life – interrupted but unparalleled.