Thursday, October 23, 2014

Impossible Odds by Jessica Buchanan and Erik Landemalm with Anthony Flacco

A memoir of humanitarian aid worker Jessica Buchanan's kidnapping by Somali land pirates.  On October 25, 2011, thirty-two year-old Jessica Buchanan was working as a teacher for a humanitarian NGO in Somalia. But on that day she and a colleague were kidnapped at gunpoint and held for ransom by Somali pirates who had moved their operations from the sea onto the land. Finally, after ninety-three days of fruitless negotiations, and with Jessica’s rapidly failing health raising her medical state to a life and death issue, President Barack Obama ordered Navy SEAL Team Six to raid the location. On January 25, 2012, nine heavily armed hostiles were killed with no harm to the hostages, who were quickly airlifted out on a military rescue helicopter. Throughout the ordeal, every moment Jessica Buchanan spent suffering in captivity was matched by that of her adoring husband, Erik Landemalm. Impossible Odds chronicles their mutual journey during those torturous months. Together they relate the events prior to the kidnapping, the drama of Jessica’s fight to stay alive, and Erik’s efforts to bolster and support the hunt for her while he acted as a liaison between their two families, the FBI, professional hostage negotiators, and the United States government.

Impossible Odds not only details the events of Jessica's kidnapping and her family's turmoil during her captivity, but also wove in world and personal histories without displacing the flow of the story telling. I was impressed with how author Anthony Flacco arranged the telling of Erik and Jessica's story. The pacing and detail were perfect. Their voices rang true and were personal, balancing emotion with factual recall.  I very much felt as though I was hearing from the speakers in person, riding their emotional journey with then during this retelling. It was both compelling and harrowing. Even knowing the outcome, I still felt the stress and tension and worried for Jessica as I turned the pages.  I imagined her physical trials as well as the fear and frustrations.  I was right there with her on the pages as she described her secret mental camouflage.  Erik's terror for his wife and helplessness were palpable.  His unrelenting efforts in working with the various organizations involved while managing to maintain hope were inspiring.  There was no overuse of sentiment or reliance on political arguments - this was a personal story.  My only complaint would be the absence of a paragraph or two relating what happened to Jessica's co-worker, Poul Thistle after their rescue.  Carefully written to echo the timing of events and experiences, Impossible Odds carries the reader as a quiet observer in the tenacity and faith of the human spirit and the strength of a family - the Buchanans, the family of America and the greater family of humankind.

No comments:

Post a Comment