In 1994, Lizbeth Meredith said good-bye to her four- and six year-old daughters for a visit with their non-custodial father—only to learn days later that they had been kidnapped and taken to their father’s home country of Greece.
Twenty-nine and just on the verge of making her dreams of financial independence for her and her daughters come true, Lizbeth now faced a $100,000 problem on a $10 an hour budget. For the next two years—fueled by memories of her own childhood kidnapping—Lizbeth traded in her small life for a life more public, traveling to the White House and Greece, and becoming a local media sensation in order to garner interest in her efforts. The generous community of Anchorage becomes Lizbeth’s makeshift family—one that is replicated by a growing number of Greeks and expats overseas who help Lizbeth navigate the turbulent path leading back to her daughters.
Lizbeth’s story was amazing. Despite going into this book knowing how it was going to end, her path was filled with so many obstacles to overcome that I wondered if she was really going to get her daughters back, and how she managed to hold on to her sanity. But I have to be honest: I don’t even know how to review this book. I’m going to treat you to a mishmash of the thoughts and feelings I had while reading this book in lieu of a structured review. Because how do you “review” someone’s life experiences and do them justice?
First and foremost, I was blown away by Lizbeth’s tenacity and strength, and the fact that she didn’t let any of the obstacles she faced deter her from rescuing her daughters. And let me tell you, she faced some damn big obstacles; from detectives lying to her, to government agencies sending her in circles, to her ex-husband threatening her life if she attempted to reach her daughters. But she never gave up and she never quit. It’s surreal reading about the girls and me in the paper. That poor mother. Those poor girls. That bad man. I find myself wondering how it will all end for these people. And it hits me that the story is mine. My daughters’ story and mine. It’s Mother’s Day, and I am a motherless child who is now a childless mother, who will celebrate by waiting for tips from the Anchorage public on how to find her daughters.
Lizbeth tells her story with a raw honesty, seemingly laying it all out there regardless of how “unpretty” her reality was. She shared the lowest lows and the highest highs, and she didn’t sugarcoat it. Human contact diminishes me, even if it is with the humans I adore. Her candor was as refreshing as it was heartbreaking. Some days I hate everybody. At least I am smart enough to keep most of my thoughts to myself, because the truth is, I need my friends. And I need to remember to be a friend and realize that their lives and stressors are important to me, too, just as mine are to them. That being said, her sense of humor did shine through in several places, reminding the reader that she is a real person, and this really did happen. One of my favorite examples of this was a statement she made after an interesting interaction she had with her mother: Note to self: see psychiatrist when back in America to rule out genetic predisposition for batshit craziness.
I highly recommend that you read this book. Lizbeth is an amazing woman, as is her story. She is an extraordinary example of someone who is a fighter, someone who was able to rise above the truly crappy hand that she had been dealt and find a way to get her children back. And her story is one that everyone can learn from.
About the author:
Lizbeth Meredith is a writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in psychology. She has worked as a domestic violence advocate and a child abuse investigator, and with at-risk teens as a juvenile probation supervisor. She blogs at http://www.lameredith.com, is a contributor to A Girls’ Guide To Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson, and is the author of When Push Comes to Shove: How to Help When Someone You Love Is Being Abused. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska near her two adult daughters.
Thank you to BookSparks for providing me with a copy of this book as part of their Magic of Memoir tour.