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Book reviews: 2 books share story of Cleveland kidnappings, rescue


June 29, 2015

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HOPE: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland,” by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus with Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, Viking, $28.95, 336 pages (nf)

In May 2013, after being held in captivity for a decade, Amanda Berry escaped the confines of her kidnapper. She and two other women had survived a horrific nightmare. Berry and fellow abductee Georgina "Gina" DeJesus have teamed up with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists to tell their story in “Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland.”

“Hope” is told in first person from the perspectives of Berry and DeJesus. Journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan of The Washington Post artfully intertwine Berry’s journal entries, initial news reports and Berry and DeJesus' recollections of traumatic trials and eventual triumphs.

Berry and DeJesus describe in detail the day of their abduction. Their captor, Ariel Castro, was a local school bus driver and father of their friends. He separately offered them each a ride to their homes and then drove them to his house and lured them inside. He then chained, gagged and repeatedly raped the girls. He threatened to kill them if they tried to escape.

Berry was abducted April 21, 2003, one day before her 17th birthday. DeJesus was taken April 2, 2004, at the age of 14. Another woman, Michelle Knight, had already been held in the house for almost a year before Berry was kidnapped. Castro would often lie to the girls in order to divide them against each other.

In the book, Jordan and Sullivan include news reports, pictures of the house where the girls were held, letters to family and insights into the life of Castro and the motivations of a sexual predator.

One month into his life sentence, Castro committed suicide by hanging himself in his prison cell.

“Hope” is a heartbreaking read as the young women endured constant rapings and other physical and psychological abuse. Racial slurs, offensive names and curse words are used throughout the book; the F-word is used twice as an expression of frustration. There is mention of the victims turning to self-cutting and self-harm to take theirs minds away from the abusive situations.

Even in such awful circumstances, the brave women continued to hope they would be rescued one day. The book is an amazing, inspirational story of survival, especially when Berry’s daughter is born in 2006.

“Hope” is riveting, chilling, powerful and unforgettable. From raw emotion to quiet determination, Berry and DeJesus show the world the strength of hope.

*****

"THE LOST GIRLS: The True Story of the Cleveland Abductions and the Incredible Rescue of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus," by John Glatt, St. Martin's Press, $26.99, 336 pages (nf)

News of three missing Cleveland women found after 10 years in captivity made headlines around the world. New York Times best-selling author John Glatt has used his talent as an investigative journalist to provide a detailed look into the lives of those involved with the case in “The Lost Girls: The True Story of the Cleveland Abductions and the Incredible Rescue of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.”

Amanda Berry, Georgina “Gina” DeJesus and Michelle Knight were rescued May 6, 2013, after Berry was able to kick through the front door of the house in which they were being held and scream for help. “The Lost Girls” provides a look at the true and horrifying story from different perspectives. Glatt uses case studies and testimonies of friends and family members of those involved to provide a detailed timeline of the events before and after the kidnappings.

As compared to “Hope” by Berry and DeJesus, some of the viewpoints are conflicting and sometimes the interviews in “The Lost Girls” are confusing. In the book’s acknowledgements, Glatt notes that he spent more than 18 months conducting research and interviews, including two weeks in Cleveland. Glatt also gathered extensive details from Lillian Roldan, who dated Ariel Castro for 3½ years.

The book is broken into three parts. In Part One, Glatt explores Castro's life in Puerto Rico, where he was physically and sexually abused; his early life in Cleveland with his family; his abusive relationship with his common-law wife; and his time with Roldan following their separation.

Part Two turns to the details surrounding the abductions of Knight, Berry and DeJesus and the events that happened during the years they were held captive.

Part Three focuses on the rescue of the three women and Berry’s daughter, who was fathered by Castro. The end of the book includes media coverage, court hearings, police investigations and Castro’s suicide.

Glatt does a good job of showing the facts and different points of view, but the book is hard to read at times. Berry, DeJesus and Knight were repeatedly raped and physically abused. Though Knight seems to have taken the blunt of the physical abuse, Berry is portrayed as being favored. Swearing is included at various times throughout the book and includes the use of the F-word.

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