At first I was disgusted. Then I became really angry. In the end, I was puzzled. I’m referring to my reactions to John Glatt’s recently published The Lost Girls: The True Story of the Cleveland Abductions and the Incredible Rescue of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus (St. Martin's Press, 2015). The book is a complex piece of investigative journalism highlighted with witness testimonies, court records, news cast transcriptions, and the like. It was highly effective. I got scared of the criminal Ariel Castro. I sympathized with his victims’ families. I got mad at the Cleveland police and the FBI. But this emotional roller-coaster ride was a bit surprising, when I thought about it. Unlike many authors who write specifically to produce a desired emotional response, Glatt takes a “Just the facts, ma’am” approach.
That’s not to say he downplays the victims’ suffering. Not at all. In fact, he shows quite well just how terrible kidnapping, rape, and other atrocities really are. But I got a sense that he was letting me, the reader, come to that conclusion myself. The Lost Girls contains many points of view, many in conflict with each other. Glatt shows that some of the evidence against Castro was rock solid and some was weak. He shows how much effort the police put into the investigations, and yet also how much they – carelessly? accidently? – overlooked. And he even allots space for the defense’s arguments, excuses, justifications.
While “disturbing” is probably the best word to describe this book’s contents, I’m glad I read The Lost Girls. Kidnapping and rape are terrible. It’s mind boggling to think of victims tolerating it for even a day let alone a decade. While that did happen in this instance, maybe it will be less likely in the future. Books like this have the potential to raise public awareness and perhaps encourage us to change things for the better.