Michelle Knight and Michelle Burford
In 2002, a single mom named Michelle Knight asked directions from a man she knew to the courthouse for a hearing she needed to attend. The man offered her a lift but needed to stop by the house to pick up something. She spent the next eleven years trapped in his house, a place that calling a slum would be an insult to slums everywhere. Over the next two years, “the dude,” as Knight came to call Ariel Castro, would kidnap two more girls, one of whom Knight knew. Their life consisted of days of torture, rape, starvation, and Castro’s bizarre attempt to weld them into a “family.” Knight was impregnated five times, each time forcefully aborted by Castro, while another girl, Amanda Berry, gave birth to a little girl.
Finding Me is Knight’s memoir of the torture she and the other girls (including Gina DeJesus) endured. Castro’s hold over them was so powerful that, even at times where escape might have been obvious, they were too terrified to leave. Castro’s downfall came when he left the front door unlocked while he left Berry alone in the living room. By the time he returned, the police had surrounded the place and the girls were on their way to the hospital.
Knight had a rough life before Castro got a hold of her. She lived in poverty where a relative – she does not name him – abused her for years and spent some time homeless before returning home and having a baby. Perhaps it is this that allowed her to endure Castro’s sick delusions.
As for Castro, Knight’s attitude proves she is one of the toughest women you’ll ever hear about. She forgave (but clearly hasn’t forgotten) Castro, mainly so she could move on and put the ordeal behind her. Nonetheless, she and the others were upset when he died in prison by his own hand, never to face any real punishment for his crime.
The book is short and cowritten with New York Times reporter Michelle Burford. They keep the book short as a ten-year blow-by-blow account would not only run long, but would become both tedious and more horrifying than just the sketches Knight gives. Some of this is also a function of coping with the tragedy. Giving more than just the highlights of what happened over that lost decade would be too painful for anyone. (Note the brevity with which most Holocaust survivors give their stories.) This book is not for the faint of heart.