A Stolen Life
by Jaycee Dugard


Simon & Schuster, 2011. ISBN 978-1-451-62918-7.
Reviewed by Sallie Moffitt
Posted on 10/06/2011

Nonfiction: Memoir

Jaycee Dugard's courageous story, A Stolen Life, not only recounts her abduction and imprisoned as the sex slave of Phillip Garrido at the age of eleven, but also celebrates her rescue and recovery at the age of twenty-nine. Ms. Dugard writes with the innocence and vulnerability of a child and unveils the emotional bonds she had to establish with Garrido, a deranged man who hears voices, in order to survive.

Ms. Dugard's simple, direct sentences describe the events leading up to her abduction in the first chapter, aptly titled "The Taking". She explains the tense relationship with Carl, her stepfather, and how she wanted to stay home from school that day. As she walks to the bus stop, she encounters Phillip Garrido and her life changes forever.

In the author's first year of captivity, Garrido manipulates the little girl by keeping her handcuffed in a dark room, controlling her with food, and threatening her with a stun gun. He uses drugs to enhance his perverted sex acts and claims the child is helping him with his sex problem.

Later that year, the author meets Garrido's wife, Nancy, who is a drug-addicted nurse's aide. Nancy remains silent about the abduction and imprisonment of the little girl, even after Ms. Dugard births two daughters, both fathered by Garrido.

What makes this book different is the excerpts for the journals Ms. Dugard kept during her captivity. Each journal entry shows her determined effort to keep a positive attitude. One journal entry lists the affirmation "I have the strength to do everything I set my mind to?" Another entry is about her quest to find happiness in her daily life. Several pages disclose telling details about Phillip Garrido's mental instability and his anger at the voices in his head.

After Ms. Dugard and her two daughters are rescued from their backyard prison, their long road of recovery begins. The author reveals her struggles to reclaim her old life and her dreams to establish a new one. Sometimes the recovery process challenges the author's sweet disposition, but she triumphs over each obstacle.

This enduring story of survival left me amazed at the inner strength of one little girl. I have no doubt that Jaycee Dugard will prevail in life—and this book is proof.


Jaycee Dugard finds comfort in the symbol of a pine cone. To her, the pine cone represents the seed of a new beginning. To help facilitate new beginnings for others, she created the J A Y C (Just Ask Yourself to...Care!) Foundation. A portion of the proceeds from her book help support this foundation.

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