Saturday, March 18, 2017

My book review of My Story by Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart

My Story by Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart

My rating: * * * * * 5/5 stars

Summary: On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.

My review: My Story is a book written by Elizabeth Smart that chronicles in Elizabeth's own words the story of how she was brutally kidnapped at knifepoint from her home by a man named Brian David Mitchell.  Mitchell brazenly broke into Elizabeth's family home and then without any fear really it seems he went right into Elizabeth's bedroom (which she shared with her little sister) and woke Elizabeth up at knife point and told her if she made a sound or tried to get away from him he would murder her family with his knife.  Elizabeth (who was only fourteen at the time) went with him (this really got to me because her parents were only a room or so away and this evil man had the gall to walk right past their room with their daughter).  Mitchell made her hike up a mountain and to his 'camp' where Elizabeth would meet Wanda Barzee Mitchell's wife who would be an accomplice in keeping Elizabeth in captivity for the next nine months.

Mitchell and Barzee made the young Elizabeth's life a living hell. This man would rape Elizabeth habitually with his wife standing by and doing absolutely nothing to help the young girl (at times in the story Elizabeth even described Barzee as seeming to be jealous of Elizabeth because of all the attention she was receiving from Mitchell; who habitually ignored his wife for the pleasure of torturing Elizabeth as well as playing manipulative mind games on the young girl.) Like telling her after a few months that her family didn't want her back and that no one was looking for her and that if she did try to escape he would kill her and her entire family.  On top of this Mitchell claimed that he was a Davidic prophet and that his wife and Elizabeth needed to obey him in all things because his words were god's words.  This crushed Elizabeth even more because she grew up in a mormon household and her family had certain beliefs that she followed whole-heartedly because of her faith and the way her family chose to live. Mitchell even took that from her by raping her (she had planned to wait until marriage to have sex) and by forcing her numerous times to drink alcoholic beverages until she would literally wake up covered in her own vomit (this was especially hard for Elizabeth because mormons see their body as holy temples and they want to keep them pure and clean so they do not drink alcohol) by making her drink and in many other small ways of manipulation Mitchell was breaking down Elizabeth's spirit and he was trying to destroy her faith in God (which he did not do).  What he did succeed in doing was making the young girl completely terrified of him and his intentions for her family if she tried to escape.  So even though a few times they were questioned by authority figures and curious citizens about who they were and who was the young girl with them Elizabeth would stay quiet and Mitchell would do all the talking. 

That did not work the last time however; after nine months of hell and Elizabeth being first confined in the mountains in Utah, then she was dragged to California when Mitchell was getting scared of all the attention her case still held in Elizabeth's home state of Utah.  They stayed in California awhile making camp in the desert and starving at times because Mitchell would leave the two women and go into town to steal food, alcohol, and sometimes porn that he would force Elizabeth to look at; and after would rape her and do horrible things to the young girl.  Finally Mitchell and his wife tired of the heat and the general climate where their camp was located in California so they (with a little push from Elizabeth who wanted to go back home so she might get recognized) decided to go back to Utah and cooler weather. (Elizabeth tricked Mitchell in a way making him believe she wanted to go back with him because she 'truly' believed he was a prophet and could do god's work better in Utah; Mitchell in my opinion seemed to want to go back because in Utah it would be easier to find young mormon girls who he could kidnap like he'd done with Elizabeth and make them his 'wives; he had tried to kidnap two young girls after he kidnapped Elizabeth but had never been successful).  

Elizabeth pretty quickly was recognized by authorities as soon as Mitchell, his wife, and Elizabeth were back in Utah; (They were first questioned in other states because Mitchell had forced his wife and Elizabeth to wear dirty robes and veils over their faces).  They didn't have these on when Elizabeth was rescued in Utah by the police; and the police being able to actually see Elizabeth I think probably helped ensure that someone was likely to recognize who she was (even in the hobo rags that Mitchell forced her to wear).  After the police got her safely away from Mitchell and his wife Elizabeth was reunited with her parents and then her brothers and sister; after nine months of literally living in hell with a crazed psycho who thought he was a prophet (he was really just a dirty old pedophile who wanted to rape young girls) and his wife Elizabeth was finally safe and back with her family.

Its been over ten years since the kidnapping took place and Elizabeth was successfully rescued; she graduated high school and college, went on a mission for her church to France, and eventually met her husband and married him in a mormon wedding ceremony in Hawaii.  She also has started a foundation for children who are abused and she does a lot of charity work benefitting abducted and sexually abused children.  She seems like even though she had this terrible experience in childhood she has moved on and has a strong faith, a happy family, and a happy and fulfilling life.

This book was very moving and although I cannot say I enjoyed it for obvious reasons I do think that Elizabeth did a very good job writing it and sharing her story with the world.  As a reader I could not put it down; I just wanted to hug this young girl and tell her that she would get rescued and that everything would be alright.  I heartily recommend this book to anyone who has ever been curious about the real Elizabeth smart story and everything she went through.  Or just people who enjoy incredible stories of faith and perseverance.  It is not a story you will soon forget.

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