TITLE: “Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings”
AUTHOR: Michelle Knight with Michelle Burford
What is life like for a young girl being sexually abused within her own family? What is it like to be ridiculed with name calling and negative remarks on her appearance by her own family members? At a young age Michelle gave birth to a son she named Joey. Who was the father?
Have you ever heard of Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard, Shawn Hornbeck, Amanda Berry, Gina De Jesus or Michelle Knight? All these girls were kidnapped victims, and this is Michelle’s story of her horrible encounter with Ariel Castro for almost 11 years as one of his victims. She felt thrown away, unloved, forgotten and ignored. Dr. Phil was her advocate, and she appeared twice on his show to share her ordeal while giving strength and hope to other abused kidnapped victims. How did Michelle manage to stay alive for almost 11 years in Ariel’s hellhole? Were there other girls there? Why did he mistreat her so much worse than Amanda or Gina? Her time would have been much shorter there if more people had paid attention and taken time to call the cops. What was the one and only reason she fought so hard to stay alive? Michelle’s story begins in 2002 at age 21 when she asked for directions at a Family Dollar store. How did she know Ariel Castro? Because she did know him and felt comfortable with him for help she trusted him and that was a huge mistake! She was estranged from her family and was fighting for custody of her son, Joey at the time she disappeared.
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Michelle’s family moved every two or three months and always in bad neighborhoods and once in a ghetto in Ohio. There was always a lot of people in and out of her home and it was scary and unsafe for her. She was in charge of her younger siblings and because of her responsibilities she missed one or two days of school every week. When teachers reached out to her she wasn’t able to tell them of the horrors of her family life. Would that have changed anything? Why weren’t her parents running the household? Michelle’s cousin treated her to special shopping trips, sharing clothes, and going roller skating.
Her 11 years as a kidnapped victim is told in graphic details with pictures included. During that time she never saw the outside world. Didn’t her classmates Rosie and Emily miss her? Did they have any idea what their dad had done? Didn’t the girls miss Amanda and Gina at school? Why didn’t her own parents report her missing or did they? Usually Michelle was kept in a dark, moldy, dingy basement, but why did Ariel sometimes bring her to an upstairs bedroom with boarded windows? Were the other girls aware Michelle was there? Ariel aborted all six of Michelle’s pregnancies , but he allowed Amanda’s baby to be born. Why? How was that child treated? Michelle’s thoughts were always on Joey: Was he in a good home? What did he look like? Would she ever be allowed to see him?
In September of 2013 all three of Ariel’s victims were free. How did that happen? What would their future be like? Would anyone want to love them? What part did Dr. Phil have in this terrible ordeal?
Ariel was given a life sentence for 937 crimes of assault, rape, kidnapping, and murders of the babies. Within the first month of being in prison he hung himself. The “house of horrors” was torn down. What affect did Ariel’s crimes have on his family? What is the future of Michelle, Amanda and Gina today? I found this to be excellent reading with graphic details of a true story of strength, hope and forgiveness.
Becky Stakston is an avid reader from Westby.