September 13, 2013

Former captive, Portland writer team up

Amanda Lindhout's ordeal in Somalia is only part of 'House in the Sky,' says her co-author, Sara Corbett.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout, right, and Portland writer Sara Corbett, co-authors of “A House in the Sky,” pose Thursday for a photo at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., during their book tour. “A House in the Sky” is a memoir that describes Lindhout’s life in captivity in Somalia.

Chitose Suzuki photo


WHAT: Sara Corbett and Amanda Lindhout

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library,  5 Monument Square

INFO: 871-1700;

Lindhout and her photographer, Nigel Brennan, were kidnapped within a week in the country and held for 15 months.

Her account of the abduction is vivid, harrowing and, at times, humorous. She and Brennan had paid handsomely for safe escort around Mogadishu, considered one of the most dangerous places on Earth, and on the day of their capture were en route to a camp for displaced people just west of the city. Lindhout was interested in reporting on the conditions there, and wanted a first-hand look.

Gun-toting bandits pulled their car over outside the city, and ordered Brennan and their Somali escorts into a ditch at the side of the road.

"A man in a yellow scarf yelled in my face," Lindhout recounts in the book. "I could see beads of sweat running from his covered forehead down past his nose. He looked young. I raised my arms -- like I'd seen done a hundred times in movies -- and slid my way out (of the car) in the blaze of sunlight.

"Was this real? How could it be real?"

She and Brennan were ferried from house to house throughout their ordeal, and eventually separated. They were released after a security firm posted $600,000 of the $1.5 million that the captors demanded as ransom.

Lindhout writes about her captivity in detail, and talks about how she maintained her spirit and strength during the darkest days. She studied Islam to endear herself to her captors, tried to reason with them, and eventually attempted a brave escape.

She survived, she writes, by imaging herself in a "house in the sky."

Corbett said she and Lindhout collaborated on every line. They spent months together, and traveled from Corbett's home in Maine to Lindhout's home in western Canada as well as to quiet Caribbean beaches to talk, write, "and shut the doors on the rest of the world," Corbett said.

At first, Corbett was inclined to decline the book project. She was not interested in ghost writing the book, and did not want to churn out a quick read. If she was going to do it, she wanted to help tell Lindhout's complete story, going back to her childhood and ending with her decision to do humanitarian work in the country where she was abducted.

She also insisted on doing it respectfully.

"Once I met Amanda and we had the chance to talk, I realized the magnitude of what had happened to her. For somebody who had lost everything, absolutely everything for 460 days, I realized I had no right to ask her to give me her story," Corbett said, explaining her decision to co-write the book with Lindhout.

They spent three years working on the project.

Corbett remains as impressed with Lindhout today as she was when she first met her, and is eager to introduce her to Portland.

"After spending three years exploring every corner of her life story, the fact that I still think that she's a remarkable person speaks volumes about how open she was with me and how willing she was to let me inside," Corbett said. "She is one of the most determined people I have ever met.

"The person I now know, I can see what led her through these various parts of her life, and I can especially see what allowed her to get through 460 days as a captive in Somalia." 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be reached at 791-6457 or:

Twitter: pphbkeyes


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