Thursday, September 5, 2013

Memoir of a Kidnap-Victim Parent: Bringing Elizabeth Home.

Title:                      Bringing Elizabeth Home – A Journey of Faith and Hope
Author:                  Ed & Louise Smart with Laura Morton
Genre:                    Non-Fiction
Publishers/Year:  DoubleDay/2003
Pages:                     211
Chapters:                25
ISBN:                      0-385-51214-7
Reviewer:             Sotunde Oluwabusayo


“Hope like faith is the evidence of things not seen. You can’t have faith without hope.”

Every parent had one time or another thought about the unspeakable, unthinkable question: “What would you do if one of your children was taken from you?” – The worst nightmare any parent or family could ever face.

At first I was skeptical about picking the book on the shelf of the book store. It wasn't the usual book I read but I read the summary on the flap of the book and I was hooked – I wanted to know what happened and how the parents coped (Sometimes reading other people's story can help you put things into perspective).

The Book: “Bringing Elizabeth home” tells the story of young Elizabeth Smart (the eldest daughter of Louise and Ed Smart) who was kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell aka Immanuel and his partner Wanda Barzee for 9 months. It is a true-life horrific review of a parent dilemma, facing the possibility of  loosing a child to an horrible experience.

Elizabeth Smart’s story was one of the compelling true crimes that rocked the international media in 2002.

I did not know about Elizabeth’s story during the time it made global news in 2002 but hearing or reading about stories of children kidnapped is not new to me. It’s all in the media.

But when Elizabeth was kidnapped, she became everyone’s daughter.

At first her parent thought she had gone to sleep in another room as it was the norm if Mary Katherine, their nine years old daughter had kicked her in her sleep – but the girl persisted that Elizabeth has been kidnapped.  

Her father assumed that she had had a bad dream.

But she went on, “You won’t find her. A man came and took her. He had a gun.”

Mary Katherine’s account later proved true as it will take Elizabeth’s parent another nine month to find their fourteen years old daughter. This was just few days after her maternal grandfather passed away.

Through it all, memories and family kinship as well as the parent’s marriage were tested as they were all subjected to media and police scrutiny.

They had to cope with the press outside their home twenty-four hours a day, the invasive line of questioning from the police and the pressure of Elizabeth’s absence. The family was on edge all the time.

Leaks to the media were occurring - leading to mistrust between the Elizabeth’s family and the police.

The police asked several questions and even went as far as pointing fingers to the victims. As they say, “Everyone is a suspect.”

Elizabeth’s father – Ed said on his daughter’s disappearance: “They tried to rip apart everything we held near and dear. Our marriage, our children, our integrity, our faith – all of it was put to question after Elizabeth kidnapping.”

At a point after Elizabeth’s disappearance, world famous forensic expert, Henry Lee, who consulted on the OJ Simpson trial, was invited to look into the case to see if there was a missing link in the investigation.

But eventually, with the help of the media and a 911 call from good-willing citizens, they were able to find Elizabeth and her abductors - Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.

Mary Katherine’s description of Elizabeth’s abductor which had been ignored by the Salt Lake police was later televised on the TV show: “America’s Most Wanted” - thanks to the photos provided by Wanda Barzee’s son.

Elizabeth’s parent met Brian David Mitchell (the man who would later kidnap their daughter)  as one of the local homeless persons who do little yard work for them. But he did not give them his real name; rather he called himself “Immanuel.” It was after he kidnapped Elizabeth that “Immanuel” was not his real name.

Though not many parents are as lucky as Elizabeth’s parent, the book gives a sense of hope that miracle still happen and even if you have lost a child or relative to kidnapping, you can channel your pain towards helping other people   – at least in your own little way.

While noting that regretfully, such miracles do not always happen in kidnapping cases; Louise and Ed in their word said: “Having our daughter back home, in our arms, is nothing short of a miracle. It is the ultimate proof that God answers prayer. Granted sometimes the answer is not the one we pray for, but still it remains an answer.”

One of the good things that however came out of the ordeal was that the family became stronger than before and even the Amber Alert bill and the Child Protection Act was signed into law by then US president, George W. Bush.

“Bringing Elizabeth home” though tells the story of a parent’s struggle through the time of waiting, the pain, guilt, suspicions, disappointment  and frenzy media who would do anything to sell their story (to the extent of brandishing the story to suit their purpose); life lessons on hope, faith, survival and the importance of family and friends in everyday life were quickly brought into the attention of the readers.

The book was written by Elizabeth’s parent, exploring the pain in their heart concerning the situation and the joy that goes with finding their missing daughter.

Indeed, the story drove one important point home: that no matter how we try in this world, there are always sick and twisted people that may want to mar your happiness but with faith, everything can return to “normal” - There is always a light at the end of the tunnel and good do triumph evil if there is hope and strong faith in God.

“Though our experience was painful, through our faith and a trust in God’s power we gained tremendous strength, which became the cornerstone of how we survived,” Elizabeth’s parent recounted in the book.

Another point driven home in this book is that: Nothing is more important than family.

Family, the prayers of so many friends and strangers and trust in God are what got them through this experience –and having survived, they have no doubt that they can preserve any situation as long as those three things are in their lives.

However, Ed and Louise, though I respect their privacy, somewhat fail to give a detailed account of what it was like to "cope" during this trying period and most of the time their religion and being a devout Mormon family  came into bear too many times to count.

Regardless, the book is an emotional and enjoyable read – giving hope that all is not lost if only there is faith.

After reading the story, I could not help but find out how Elizabeth is fairing. Today Elizabeth Smart is a “Smart” young lady living her life as an example of faith and hope with her husband. Her abductor, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee are both serving time at the federal prison.

Elizabeth’s book “My story” will be out on October 7, 2013 - recounting her nine months ordeal  - eleven years after her painful and rewarding journey .

                                                                 My Story Autographed by Elizabeth Smart

I hope I get to read it J - to remind me once again that Miracles do happen.