Book by: Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
Review by: Holli Fergus
Academic Advising
American Public University System

In a memoir about life, love, strength, and humanity, Amanda Lindhout captures readers’ attention as she describes her travels and experiences as a hostage in a foreign country for 460 days. Lindhout is able to describe her experiences both traveling through other countries to being held captive to remind the reader to be thankful for what’s afforded in life, including freedom. Her experiences translate to Academic Advising by providing life “lessons” that can be translated and used by readers in all walks of life. 

Lesson 1: Don’t judge a person by face value. In Lindhout’s book, she moves away from home, takes short-termed waitressing jobs to raise money, travels the world, and does it all over again. Growing up, Amanda had a fascination with National Geographic magazines, and travels to experience what she spent so many years reading about. While held hostage, Lindhout wishes at one point she’d taken a more “traditional” route and attended college. Once released, she completed a six month diploma course. As a student sitting in a classroom, everything she’s been through cannot be discerned, but she’s a great example of someone following through on their dreams, regardless of the obstacles faced.

Lesson 2: Life experiences can be just as valuable as an education. While Amanda may not have earned a traditional college degree, the conditions she was exposed to, knowledge she gained, people she met, and the struggles she faced while held captive are experiences she will carry with her throughout her entire life. Her book is an educational experience in itself, often leaving the reader feeling like they are beside her during her personal journey and transformation. Amanda uses the lessons she learned to educate others and create awareness to support education in Somalia.

Lesson 3: Don’t take life (or freedom) for granted. Lindhout’s captivity experience is emotional and evokes empathy from her readers. She goes through stages of hope and despair as she fights for her life and for her freedom. She tries to relate to her captors and recognize that as humans, people make decisions each day that, good or bad, have an impact not just on themselves, but on others. Lindhout learns and reminds her readers to be thankful for even the smallest things in life: food, a shower, and most importantly, friends and family.

Lesson 4: Stay strong. It’s miraculous that despite the conditions in which Amanda was held captive that she never surrenders hope. She was beaten, raped, and tortured and even through the worst, she finds a way to hold on to her strength and remain positive that the ordeal will end. She is held captive with a friend who, even when they are unable to communicate, gives her solace of a shared experience. Amanda teaches her readers to find the silver lining even in the most desperate circumstances.

There are people who, like Lindhout, survive the unimaginable and use their experiences to educate and motivate others. In advising, students need guidance through life’s struggles and assistance with realizing that the challenges faced and skills developed can be used to accomplish goals and fulfill dreams. Amanda Lindhout is strong and courageous, and her book is an inspiration that can serve as a reminder to students that anything can be accomplished when the mind is set to do so.

A House in the Sky. (2013). Book by Lindhout, Amanda, & Corbett, Sara. Review by Holli Fergus, New York, NY: Scribner (Simon and Schuster). 384 pp., $27.00 (Hardbook).  ISBN #978-1-4516-4560-6


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