Amanda Lindhout had never been much for travel warnings.
Growing up in rural Canada, she hoarded issues of National Geographic, vowing to see the world revealed on the magazine’s pages. Later, as a backpacker and freelance journalist, that’s exactly what she did, traversing the planet’s most dangerous corners: Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and finally Somalia, where, in 2008, her luck officially ran out.
On Lindhout’s fourth day in the country, she was kidnapped at gunpoint by masked men and held for ransom for 15 months. She endured unthinkable mental and physical torture. (She even converted to Islam in an effort to appear more sympathetic to her captors.) Ultimately, she lived to tell the tale, which she does beautifully in her new memoir, A House in the Sky (seamlessly cowritten with journalist Sara Corbett).
We were floored by Lindhout’s story when it was excerpted last month in The New York Times Magazine. But there’s much more to the full narrative--not only the details of an unimaginable experience but also a probing look at the nature of survival. Instead of turning to despair, Lindhout created a sanctuary in her mind, a “house in the sky” that got her through the darkest hours.