Review: Impossible Odds by Jessica Buchanan

May 22, 2013 5 Stars, Jessica Buchanan, Non-Fiction 5 ★★★★

Impossible Odds by Jessica Buchanan
Published by Atria Books on May 14, 2013
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
A harrowing and heartwrenching memoir of humanitarian aid worker Jessica Buchanan's kidnapping by Somali land pirates, her three months in captivity, her rescue by the Navy SEALs, and her husband's extraordinary efforts to help bring her home.In 2006, twenty-seven-year-old Jessica Buchanan arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, with a teaching degree and long-held dreams of helping to educate African children. By 2009, she had met and married the man of her dreams, a native Swede named Erik Landemalm, who worked to coordinate humanitarian aid with local authorities in Africa. With dreams of starting a family, they moved from Nairobi to Somalia, and their future couldn't have been brighter...

But on October 25, 2011, Jessica and a male colleague were kidnapped at gunpoint and held for ransom by an organized band of Somali land pirates. For the next three months, Jessica was terrorized by more than two dozen gangsters. She was held outdoors in filthy conditions and kept on a starvation diet while her health steadily deteriorated. Negotiations for ransom dragged on, and as the ordeal stretched into its third month, the captors grew increasingly impatient.

Every terrifying moment Jessica spent suffering in captivity was matched by that of her adoring husband working behind the scenes to deal with her captors. Finally, on January 25, 2012, President Barack Obama ordered a rescue operation by a team of twenty-four Navy SEALs. The team killed all nine kidnappers, with no harm to the hostages, who were quickly airlifted out on a military rescue helicopter.

In riveting detail, "Impossible Odds" details Jessica and Erik's mutual journey during those torturous months. Together they relate the events prior to the kidnapping, the drama of Jessica's fight to stay alive, and Erik's efforts to bolster and support the hunt for her while he acted as liaison between their two families, the FBI, professional hostage negotiators, and the United States government.
If you weren’t aware of Seal Time Six before the successful operation that took out Bin Laden, you certainly are now.  Another less well-known mission took place in Somalia in 2012 when the Seals rescued an American woman held captive by Somali pirates for three months.  Jessica Buchanan’s desire to help African children led her and her husband to Somalia, where she also instructed locals how to avoid landmines.  On October 25, 2011, Jessica and her Danish colleague, Poul Thisted, were kidnapped at gunpoint by Somalis determined to wrangle a massive ransom.  ($45MM was the first request.)

Now, imagine if you were kidnapped in a strange country by a group of armed men.  They’re relatively calm and performing the operation with precision.  Yet, you still know that in the worst case scenario, they will kill you to make a religious and political statement against America.  Or, as a best case, you are a temporary captive being held for an outrageous ransom.  Both are terrifying, right?  Now let’s imagine these kidnappers are NOT the calm, professional type.  Instead, they are crazed, waving their loaded assault rifles around and screaming at each other, all while under the influence of the drug, khat.  These were Jessica’s and Poul’s kidnappers, and I assume the terror was amped-up a thousand-fold.

I admire the hell out of people who dedicate their lives to improving the lives of others.  This is what Jessica did, and she suffered terribly for it.  Each day of her three month imprisonment, she wondered if it would be her last.  There was always the risk of another “worse” gang of kidnappers swooping in to steal away this American “prize,” and Jessica was in the unimaginable position of hoping to stay with her current band of kidnappers who had so far not killed or raped her and were providing her with a minimal amount of sustenance.

The book is written in three viewpoints.  The focus is on Jessica’s first person narration which is horrifying as she describes her terror, thirst, hunger, filth, and declining health.  Her days were spent outdoors trying to stay out of the line of fire, both figuratively and literally, as her kidnappers constantly threatened her life.  Her husband, Erik, details his own fear and the desperate attempts to bring Jessica home.  Author Anthony Flacco describes the behind the scenes action by the U.S. government that led to the heart-racing rescue by Seal Team Six.  All if it combines for a book that will both terrify you and bring tears to your eyes when Jessica and Erik are finally reunited.

Note – I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review posted at Goodreads.


5 Responses to “Review: Impossible Odds by Jessica Buchanan”

  1. Robyn Jones

    I’m not much of a nonfiction reader since I took a break from autism research a few years ago, but this book sounds amazing. I remember this story from the headlines. I can’t imagine hoping to remain with the crazies who wave their guns around. When I was a kid our family friends were taken hostage in the Iran hostage crisis. Waiting on word was hell, waiting to see if you’re going to survive has to be a million times worse.

  2. CeCe

    I saw a giveaway offer for this book last week and was curious about it. I might need to pick it up now that I see your five star review. War stories interest me and I am curious about seeing a woman’s spin. Thanks for sharing your thoughts : )

    CeCe @ Steaming Mug of Books

  3. Tina Van Dyn Hoven

    I saw her interview with Dr Phil a week or two ago and her story is amazing! I’m definitely going to check out her book. Usually I don’t read any non-fiction, but this is such an inspirational story that I can’t pass it up!

  4. Girl!Reporter

    I remember when this happened, I didn’t realise a book had come out. I’ll have to see if I can pick it up. Thanks for the review.


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