Since I knew the basics of the story, and they were downright terrifying to say the least, I actually hadn't planned on reading Jaycee Dugard's rip-your-heart-out account of being kidnapped at 11 and held in captivity as a sex slave for another 18 (!!!) years in A Stolen Life.
If anything, I'd probably just skip to the end just to see how she was finally rescued from such a horrific ordeal and recovering now that she was free.
But once I sped through the first few pages at the local Barnes & Noble, I simply couldn't put it down. As difficult to read as you've probably imagined, and then some, Jaycee didn't even bother with flowery adjectives to tell her story.
Stripped bare of any pretense, her sentences get straight to the point and pack a major wallop, and I found myself brushing away tears on several occasions. Whether she was recounting the loss of innocence at the hands of a truly sick man, re-living the utter terror of giving birth twice in her early teens in virtual isolation or sharing how she managed to stay strong when hope didn't seem anywhere in sight, it couldn't help but break your heart.
As a result, you couldn't help feeling a flurry of emotions with every turned page—anger at the justice system for not discovering what her kidnapper was up to earlier (he was on probation, after all, and officers made regular visits to his home), utter sadness for her Mom who had no idea what happened to her sweet daughter, and naturally, an incomparable jolt of elation when her captors made the big mistake that eventually paved the way for Jaycee and her young daughters' freedom.
There's not many books that stick with you for days after you finish reading, but I couldn't help thinking of Jaycee and her story long after I finished that last page. Her bravery really moved me, and I hope this new chapter in her life is nothing short of wonderful. If anyone deserves that, it's her...and her daughters.
After that, I knew I wasn't ready for another heavy storyline, so I picked up Apron Anxiety, a memoir I've been reading all sorts of good things about by Alyssa Shelasky. Since I'm always a sucker for a story where a woman eventually finds her inner cooking goddess, I thought it would be right up my alley.
Unfortunately, most of it left me feeling rather sour.
While Ms. Shelasky is a skilled storyteller, and I'd definitely want to try some of the recipes she includes in the book, my response to Apron Anxiety was about on par with how I felt about Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love.
Like Eat Pray Love, there was a pervasive narcissism about the leading lady in Apron Anxiety that was very off-putting. And when the protagonist devotes so much of her prose to telling you just how fabulous she is, it's pretty hard to empathize with her when "the going gets tough" on the road to self-discovery.
So when Alyssa ditches her job at People and leaves NYC to follow a man she barely knows to Washington D.C. and repeatedly whines about how much he works (he is a chef on the rise and a Top Chef alum, after all), it was just too much.
While some might praise her for following her heart and eventually finding a new passion in the wake of a failed love connection with ChefDreamy, it's hard to boo-hoo with someone who leads such a charmed life. And trust me, it's charmed with a capital "C," to list all the ways would probably ignite most people's gag reflex.
In fact, her story is so darn convenient, it'll probably be made into yet another charmless rom-com starring (sigh!) Katherine Heigl because not even Julia Roberts would sign up for this self-centered drivel. And that's saying something considering Julia was the one who played Gilbert in what ended up being nothing more than a pretty spectacular travelogue.
Aside from a couple incredible jaunts to Greece, not even Apron Anxiety has that going for it, sadly.