As different as each one of their incredible real-life sagas have been, these two women have been brought to and kept them in the public eye, partially because while they were all victims, they have refused to be victimized. Their personal tragedies have become media events that are still of intense fascination to the public. Now, perhaps in an attempt to shed more light on what happened, their tales are be shared in a longer and more intimate way than we‘ve previously gotten from TV interviews or magazine stories, though only one of them is told from a first-person perspective.
If you‘ve followed the ordeals that these women have been through, you may well be interested in “A Mighty Heart“ by Mariane Pearl and Sarah Crichton and “Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope“ by Ed and Lois Smart with Laura Morton.
“A Mighty Heart -- The Brave Life and Death of My Husband“ by Mariane Pearl and Sarah Crichton
On January 23, 2002, Danny Pearl, the South Asia bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal stationed in Pakistan, left his home. It was the last time his pregnant wife, fellow journalist Mariane, saw him alive, and in the weeks that followed, she initiated an intense search for her husband, only to learn in the end that he had been kidnapped, held captive and eventually brutally murdered by Pakistani terrorists.
It‘s a heartbreaking and unforgettable story, written by Mariane, an award-winning documentary film director who produced and hosted a daily radio show for Radio France International. She begins it on the morning of the final day she and Danny would spend together:
“Dawn will rise soon over Karachi. Curled in Danny‘s warm embrace, I feel safe. I like that this position is called “spooning“ in English. We are like spoons in a drawer, pressed to each another, each fitted to the other‘s shape. I love these sweet moments of oblivion and the peace they bring me. No matter where we are -- Croatia, Beirut, Bombay -- this is my shelter. This is our way of meeting the challenge, of confronting the chaos of the world.“
For the next five weeks, while the rest of the world waited for news of Pearl‘s whereabouts, Mariane launched a courageous search for the man she loved and with whom she planned to spend the rest of her life. The couple knew the risks they were taking by living in a very troubled part of the world, but as journalists, both believed that good reporting was essential to our understanding of ethnic and religious conflict around the globe. That was one of many beliefs they shared, and Pearl would end up paying for it with his life.
As the search went on, Mariane came to learn things about her husband she hadn‘t previously known, like when she finds a list on his computer about the things he most likes about her. Some of these sweet, quieter moments give balance to the book‘s more dramatic and tension-filled passages, and let the reader know more about why the world lost someone special when Pearl was killed.
Much has been written about the case, but there really only is one person who could do justice to the story, and that is the woman who lived through and wrote about it. Her skills as a journalist and her familiarity with the socio and political forces rumbling through Pakistan greatly aid in shaping the narrative, but where it really hits home is in her descriptions of a man who “gave his all to everything he did.“
This is a poignant, personal and painful story of a tragic death incurred by someone trying to do his job well and with honor and integrity, much the same way he lived his life. It was recently announced that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston‘s production company had bought the rights to the book, so it should be headed for the silver screen soon, but don‘t shortchange yourself - read this fine book.
“Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope “ by Ed and Lois Smart with Laura Morton
“Since Elizabeth returned home, there have been many questions surrounding what happened to her while she was gone. As her parents, we wish to protect our daughter‘s privacy and will not share the terrifying details of her captivity. We feel privacy is something Elizabeth, having survived nine months of torment, is entitled to. Perhaps someday she will choose to publicly share her story. That is her decision to make -- not ours.“
Okay, then, one can reasonably ask, why was this book written, along with its authors having made a dizzying slate of talk show and TV appearances with everyone from Oprah to Katie Couric? (Just for the record, Couric‘s prime-time interview with Elizabeth and her parents, Ed and Lois, on Friday, October 24 snared 11.9 million viewers, beating out the Barbara Walters‘ ABC 20/20 interview with Princess Diana‘s butler Paul Burrell, which drew 8.8 million viewers.
In case you haven‘t been out of the country for most of 2003, Elizabeth Smart is a now 16-year-old Mormon girl from Utah who at age 14 was kidnapped and held captive for nine months by Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. The pair have been charged with kidnapping, burglary and sexual assault, and Elizabeth has returned home to her family and on to the business of being a healthy American teenager.
Because of the pain the family has been through, one can‘t believe that the Smarts wrote this book for reasons other than noble ones, such as thanking the many who were involved in efforts to find and rescue Elizabeth. Devout Mormons, they have also stated that part of their undertaking this effort was to reinforce their belief in the “ultimate proof that God answers prayers.“ Doubleday vice president Suzanne Herz says, “The Smarts wrote the book with the best of intentions. It raises a lot of issues about how people can help find abducted children.“
The book is heart-felt, yet curiously restrained, and does not really provide any new information on their daughter‘s ordeal, though I‘m not sure that there would be any purpose to openly discussing the sordid details of her time in captivity, the sexual abuse, and so forth. Ed and Lois alternate chapters that primarily focus on the role their religious faith played in their dealing with Elizabeth‘s absence and her final return; the strengthening of their marriage through a crisis that could have torn them apart; the details of the search; and the intrusiveness of the media.
No one but the Smart family members and those closest to them will ever truly be able to understand the personal hell they endured, but “Bringing Elizabeth Home“ is at its most touching when it describes the joy they experienced on her return. The loss temporary or otherwise - of a child is absolutely a parents worst nightmare, and being reunited with a missing child must seem like nothing short of a miracle. If there‘s anything this book conveys with complete focus, it is that.