In her book, “A Stolen Life,” Dugard gives us all the fetid horror that authors like Dean Koontz and James Pattersonhave been trying to conjure on their pages for years. Only this time, it’s real. And it’s worse than fiction.
The story of Dugard’s ordeal fuels every helicopter parent’s unreasonable Velcro parenting. See, it can happen! And now, most American children will never ride their bikes in the empty lot until dusk or kick a can on a meandering walk home.
It’s a tough read. But work through it, and you’ll find more than the stomach-churning details that make you put it down the first night. Thislittle memoir, which shot to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list the day before it was released, was written plainly and simply by Dugard herself, without the help of a ghostwriter. And in that, it is powerful beyond its voyeurism.
Dugard starts the book with her life in my home town, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., where her family relocated after their apartment in Anaheim, home of Disneyland, was burgled. Aside from the small grease stain that the casinos occupy in this Sierra Nevada idyll, Tahoe is a quiet place. The most frequent assaults are night raids on garbage cans by raccoons.
I walked to the bus stop throughout my childhood. I was always afraid, like Dugard was, of missing the bus and having to ask my dad — asleep after pulling a night shift in the casinos — for a ride to school. I was lucky. I made it to school just about every day and was away at college on June 10, 1991.
On that morning, my little brother did his usual trek to a bus stop just a few miles from the spot where Dugard was doing the same thing. It was the last time my brother walked alone as a kid.
A car pulled up alongside Dugard, the window rolled down, and the driver began asking for directions. This happened all the time in Tahoe, where we would delight in sending tourists on a 70-mile trip around the lake to get to the casinos that were just two miles away in the opposite direction.
But the driver, Phillip Garrido, didn’t want the casinos. He and his wife, Nancy, wanted the 11-year-old blonde in a pink windbreaker.He zapped her with a stun gun and dragged her into his car.
The voice describing all this could be straight from the pages of an 11-year-old’s diary, but the details are more likely to be found in the script of a hard-core porn flick. “The strange man tells me to look at him. I glance real quickly and want to start laughing in spite of my fearfulness. His private part looks so funny,” Dugard writes of the first night that Garrido forced her to shower with him, then handcuffed her and locked her in a shed in the back yard of his house outside Antioch, Calif.