First line: "The day I disappeared in 2002, not many people even seemed to notice."
The Cleveland, Ohio, area made headlines when three young women who had disappeared a decade prior were found alive by a man who heard their cries for help. They had been kidnapped and held as sex slaves by Ariel Castro. Finding Me is Michelle Knight's story as told by her.
Finding Me isn't a literary masterpiece. However, part of the tragedy lies in that fact. Saying Knight had a rough lot in life is an understatement. She was born into a very poor family who often removed her from school to tend to the younger children. She was sexually abused as an adolescent and ran away from home, opting to live in a garbage can--literally--rather than allow her abuse to continue.
The time she was the safest and most well-cared for was when she happened on a job carrying drugs for a dealer. His arrest put her back on the streets.
Eventually forced back home, Knight ended up pregnant at 16. An episode in her family's home resulted in social services removing her child, and it was her desperation to get him back that ultimately led to her kidnapping.
Knight wasn't a child people would offer rewards to help find--no one in her family had such money. She wasn't a child that would make and stay in headlines, the poor rarely are. She was an easy target for Castro because of her life situation. More than anything that needs to be the lesson that comes from her story. Our society should not have throw-away children, but we do.
Knight's language and word choice throughout the book are adolescent. An irony that shouldn't be lost on the reader. Her youth was stolen from her. She was forced to grow up quickly at a young age but was never allowed the tools to do so in a healthy and productive manner.
The experiences Knight shares are wrenching, even more so with the voice of a young girl who had simply wanted to improve her lot in life, but didn't have the know how or support to do it.
To say this woman was brave is not quite right. She wasn't given a choice to weather any of the storms she was drenched in. But she was strong. She persevered. She regularly talks about using her son as the motivation to make it through more than ten years of sexual and psychological abuse. Hooray for her survival. Now let's use the lessons from her ordeal to help others avoid such nightmares. How many don't survive? And we never hear their stories?
I picked up this book because the kidnappings took place in my neck of the woods, but I think this is a read we can all benefit from. We as a society need to see that we're failing a large population of our young people, people with loads of potential if they're given access to the right tools. If we ignore them, continue to view them as throw-aways, then situations like Michelle Knight's continue to happen or the young people will turn to crime.
There are so many lessons to learn and take away from this simply-written story of a tragic life. Are we ready to learn them?
Finding Me is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-1602862562) from Weinstein Books. There is also an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 978-1470381783) version narrated by Maria Cabezas from Recorded Books.