Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Stolen Lives: 20 Years in a Desert Jail

Imagine for a second you are 18-years-old. Your father commits a crime and you, your mother, and your five younger siblings... in fact much younger, your youngest brother is only three... are left to pay for the crime of your father. 

Imagine your only food being a piece of bread soaked in rat urine, with a sprinkling of rat feces on top.

Take a moment to let that sink in. Bread. Soaked in rat pee with a topping of poop.

Imagine spending 20 of the prime years of your life locked away, left to die. Starvation, filth, and despair are a part of your everyday life.

That is the story of Malika Oufkir and yes, it's a true one.

This is one of those memoirs that really make you value what you have. So many memoirs are about people who did things to themselves. Weight issues, drug problems, alcohol abuse. But, Malika and the Oufkir family deserved nothing that happened to them. 

The book starts out with Malika talking about her life in the royal palace. She was adopted by the king to be a companion to his young daughter, Lalla Mina. Her family had no choice in this. Her father was a high-ranking military official and her mother a beautiful socialite. When Malika was in her teenage years she was finally able to convince the royal court to rejoin her with her family though she still kept strong ties to her adoptive father, the princess, and the royal harem. In a way she has always been a prisoner.

After committing a serious and deadly crime against the king her father is executed. The Oufkir family were suspicious of the man of the house, but were not aware that he had anything planned against the king. After the crime is committed (a failed coup d'etat) Malika and her family are thrown in prison. Things gradually get progressively and hideously worse for the family. Though, they are strong people and never succumb to the horrendous living conditions of living in gaol. 

I give this book four out of five stars. I can say I learned a lot about the African country of Morocco. Prior to reading this book, I had a very limited view of the country. I had seen Casablanca, but never read any books about the country, nor seen any other movies or documentaries. From what little I knew, I imagined Morocco as a party place. One of the freest and loosest (or the freest and loosest) of all Arab countries. Now, I see that seems to be a guise that the country hides behind.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be inspired by the strength of the human spirit or anyone who loves reading memoirs of people who overcome rather than throwing a pity party.

Happy Reading, Bookworms!

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