Author. Activist. Victim—no more.
In her fearless memoir, My Story—the basis of the Lifetime Original movie I Am Elizabeth Smart—Elizabeth detailed, for the first time, the horror behind the headlines of her abduction by religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. Since then, she’s married, become a mother, and travelled the world as the president of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, sharing her story with the intent of helping others along the way.
Over and over, Elizabeth is asked the same question: How do you find the hope to go on? In this book, Elizabeth returns to the horrific experiences she endured, and the hard-won lessons she learned, to provide answers. She also calls upon others who have dealt with adversity—victims of violence, disease, war, and loss—to explore the pathways toward hope. Through conversations with such well-known voices as Anne Romney, Diane von Furstenburg, and Mandy Patinkin to spiritual leaders Archbishop John C. Wester and Elder Richard Hinckley to her own parents, Elizabeth uncovers an even greater sense of solace and understanding. Where There’s Hope is the result of Elizabeth’s mission: It is both an up-close-and-personal glimpse into her healing process and a heartfelt how-to guide for readers to make peace with the past and embrace the future.
From the book:
“I was not willing to accept that my fate was to live unhappily ever after. Everything—my family, my home, my chance to go to school—had been given back to me, and I didn’t want to miss a second chance of living my own life.” —Elizabeth Smart
“There are two types of survivors: the ones who did not die, and the ones who live. There will be those who will always remember and be the victim, and ones who just won’t. You have to go on, you have to learn, and you have to heal.” —Diane von Furstenberg
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|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"Hope" is the thing with feathers-– That perches in the soul-– And sings the tune without the words-– And never stops-–at all ... —
My mom will always love me, no matter what has happened to me. My dad will always love me. My siblings are stuck with me. No matter what happens to me, my family will always love me, and that is something that can never be taken away from me. That was my thought the morning after I was kidnapped from my bed at knifepoint and brought high into the mountains behind my childhood home.
I grew up in Salt Lake City, where my family has been for generations. My father, Ed Smart, was in real estate, and my mother, Lois, was a homemaker. Right up until the day I disappeared, I probably would have said that there was nothing remarkable about my parents. They were just Mom and Dad, two kind, quiet-living, salt-of-the-earth people who were devoted to each other and to their children.
I come from a large family, the second of six kids. Although we all look alike — different variations of the same mold, fair-skinned and athletic — we are all different. But whenever we get together, there's teasing, laughing, and long conversations.
My brother Charles is the oldest and used to want everyone to know that, but he's also highly dedicated and fiercely loyal to those he loves.
I'm next, so for the first fourteen years of my life, teachers and kids in the school halls would always say, "You look just like your older brother!" (Ah, if only I were occasionally recognized now as Charles's sister instead of as "that girl who got kidnapped.")
Andrew follows me. Everyone likes Andrew. He is impossible not to like, making friends wherever he goes. When Andrew was a little boy, probably only about two years old, Mom had taken us shopping, and there was a lady standing outside the store smoking a cigarette. Without missing a beat, Andrew said to her, "Smoking is bad for you!" I think my mom died inside a little bit, and she quickly herded us into the store. When we were returning to the car with our groceries, the lady ran up to us and said to Andrew, "That was my last cigarette. I'll never smoke again." Whether it was his boyish charm or his sweet face, I don't know, but he got away with that sort of stunt then and still does now.
My only sister, Mary Katherine, is next. She is the kind of person who may seem quiet, even reserved, but once you gain her trust, you will have a loyal friend for life. We shared a room for almost our entire childhood. We were best pals. Being outnumbered two to one by boys, Mary Katherine and I had to stick together. Sometimes we would stay up late after our parents sent us to bed, just giggling until our dad would come in and tell us, "Girls, go to sleep. Now."
Edward is disciplined and serious. He's always known what he wanted and how to get it, and he has a million-dollar smile that tells you everything you need to know about him.
William is the baby of the family. Even though there are exactly eleven years and six days between us, we have always been close. When he was a little boy and would get scared at night, he would come into the room my sister and I shared and crawl into bed with us. I don't think Mary Katherine was too keen on that, but I would tell her, "One day he'll grow up, and he will never do this again, and then you'll miss it."
On June 4, 2002, I was fourteen years old, just about to graduate from junior high, and I couldn't wait to go to high school. I was sick of the dress code and riding the bus, and I was really looking forward to the alternating day class schedules. I was an intelligent kid, but I was very sheltered. Whenever I heard about kidnappings, rapes, or other crimes committed against people, I naïvely thought those things could never happen to me. They could happen to other people — people who lived on the wrong side of the tracks or made questionable decisions — but certainly never me. My innocence made my experience all the worse, because all the things that I thought could never happen to me did happen — along with a lot of things I could never have imagined happening to anyone at all.
In the early hours of that morning, I woke up with a sharp knife blade pressed up against my neck. A bearded man stood over me. He said, "I have a knife at your neck. Don't make a sound. Get up and come with me." This terrifying person dragged me out of my bed and steered me out of the house, threatening to kill my little sister if I didn't cooperate. I remember being led through my house and up into the mountains, praying every step of the way for an opportunity to escape, feeling scared that somehow I had missed that opportunity, sobbing, "Why? Why are you doing this?"
He said something about ransom. That I was his hostage. He told me to be quiet or he'd go back into my house and kill my family, and I believed him. He'd just demonstrated that he could do exactly that. He forced me to hike up into the trees a couple hundred yards down from the mountain ridgeline. There in the heart of the forest was a clearing. Part of the mountainside had been leveled out. On the south side of the camp, a retaining wall had been built up with branches and trees interwoven almost like a basket but not as tight. There was a large tent — maybe a six-person-sized tent. Tarps covered the ground around the tent and hung from the trees above, hiding the camp from view. I saw big plastic trunks, filled with I have no idea what. Behind the tent, there was a big hole in the ground, but it was mostly covered up with logs laid across the top and dirt thrown on top of the logs. A piece of skinny metal cable ran through the camp. It was tied around a tree on the west side and lashed to another tree on the east side.
A woman emerged from the tent. This image is seared into my memory. She was unlike any person I had ever seen before. She had long gray hair and hard, cold eyes that bored into me. She had a thickly built body and wore a long linen robe. She immediately embraced me in a very threatening way — like she was trying to tell me, I'm in control. If you cross me, you'll be sorry. She led me into the tent and sat me down on an upturned bucket. She brought in a small blue basin to give me a sponge bath. I was very shy, so I was appalled at the idea of anyone trying to undress me. Naïve as I was, I knew that this wasn't like my parents undressing me when I was a baby. Begging and pleading with her to leave me alone, I clutched my pajama buttons so they couldn't be undone and clamped my elbows tightly against my torso so she couldn't pull the top off over my head. Nothing swayed her determination to force me into a linen robe just like the one she had on. I did eventually end up in that accursed robe, but I finally convinced her to let me change myself. Later I realized what a big deal that was; I learned with brutal clarity that this was not a woman who was likely to adjust her chosen course. She studied me with those icy, calculating eyes as I changed, instructing me to remove my underwear, and then she scooped up all my clothing and walked out of the tent.
The man who had kidnapped me walked into the tent. He looked different. He had changed out of the dark sweatpants and sweatshirt he was wearing when he broke into our house. Now he wore a linen robe just like the one I had just been forced to put on, just like the one the woman wore. He knelt down next to me as I sat on the upturned bucket crying my soul out. I heard him speak, but frankly, I was in no state to understand anything he was saying.
No. Try. Focus, I told myself. Find a way to escape. Find a way to call Mom and Dad.
He would want to contact them. For the ransom. Then I could go home. I blinked hard and forced myself to hear what he was saying, but I heard only the last part.
"I seal you to me on this Earth, and I take you to be my wife. Before God and His angels as my witnesses."
I thought I had misheard. It was like a bomb had just exploded in my head. There was no way this was happening to me. Seal you to me — what did that even mean? I had only a shadow of an understanding. I had never even been on a date before, hadn't even had my first period yet. I wasn't an unintelligent girl, but I was oblivious to many parts of adult life, sex being one of them. I was mortified the whole time I had to sit through "maturation" class in fifth and sixth grade, and I conveniently managed to be sick during health class the day the Miracle of Life film was being shown. It would be accurate to say I was clueless about sex. And I should have been allowed to stay that way until I was ready to be otherwise.
I tried to reason with him, to tell him this wasn't okay, legal, or binding in any way. I tried to make him understand that this was wrong on every conceivable level — the list of reasons why went on forever. Of course, I understand now that reason had nothing to do with it. I'd never experienced any aspect of sex, but more to the point, I'd never experienced violence. I'd never been in a room with such soulless cruelty.
He pushed the robe up around my waist and forced me to the ground. Desperate to protect myself, I rolled away onto my stomach, because in my foggy idea of how sex worked on a mechanical level, I thought it had something to do with the two people facing each other. I thought it would be impossible if I were facedown with my legs crossed and clenched together.
There aren't words to describe the humiliation, pain, and total degradation I felt over the subsequent hours. I've learned and grown so much since then, but I still can't imagine anything worse. In my opinion, rape is worse than murder. The rape of a child is beyond the definition of despicable. When it was over, he stood up and walked out of the tent without the slightest shadow of regret. No concern. No remorse. No guilt over how he had physically damaged and emotionally destroyed me. I lay curled up in the fetal position on the ground. I lost consciousness. I must have been in a severe state of shock. Sleep was the only escape from the heartache and agony I was suffering.
I didn't know their real names at that time, but as I write this, from this moment forward, I intend to use the names of the people who kidnapped me: Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. I choose to do this, but not because I want to humanize them in any way. In the immortal words of J. K. Rowling, through the character of Dumbledore instructing Harry Potter to call his archenemy, Lord Voldemort, by his name: "Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself." I refuse to ever again grant Mitchell or Barzee any power over my life or allow them to cause fear in my heart.
My next memory is of Mitchell kneeling over me. I was aware of his looming presence, but I didn't want to open my eyes. I was terrified he would rape me again. I hoped that maybe if I lay there not moving, he might leave me alone a little longer. But feigning sleep wasn't going to deter him. I opened my eyes, and there he was, as horrifying in real life as in my imagination, staring right back at me, running a length of metal cable through his hands. I promised that I wouldn't run away if he would just leave me free of physical bonds. That was a bald-faced lie, and he must have known it. From the instant I was brought into the hidden camp, I was looking for a way to escape, planning to make a run for it as soon as he and his real wife were asleep that night. Mitchell just looked at me, smiled, and said he was going to chain me up anyway. He said he was doing me a favor by removing temptation.
Mitchell left me in the tent, and though it was a bright, sunny morning outside, I couldn't have felt more darkness and paralyzing fear inside, shackled like a slave, brutalized, terrified. Alone and brought low — lower than I would have thought possible.
And that's when I had this one pinprick of hope.
My mom will always love me, no matter what has happened to me. My dad will always love me. My siblings are stuck with me. No matter what happens to me, my family will always love me, and that is something that can never be taken away from me.
The more I focused on this tiny shaft of light, the stronger and brighter it became, until I finally found that I had made a decision: No matter what lay ahead of me, no matter how many different tortures my captors thought up, no matter how long I had to live to outlive them, I was going to do it. I was going to do whatever I had to do to survive. Whatever it was, if it meant that somehow I would survive another day, I would do it. Because my family's love was worth it, and no one could ever change that.
That was my hope. That is why I survived nine long months of a nightmare. Every time I thought I had hit rock bottom, that I could sink no lower, these people would think up a new torture, a new way to destroy the minute pieces that were my shattered soul. But I made myself remember that I had something to hold on to, something to survive for, something that could never be taken away from me. I had this small, precious kernel of hope. I knew that I would always belong to a family, even if death separated us, and I knew that they would always love and accept me.
That hope is what sustained me through my darkest moments. I would have given up without that hope. I wouldn't be here today without that hope.
Hope, I've learned over the years and through my experiences, can be many things, ranging from wishful thinking — like "I hope it rains diamonds from the sky" — to something much stronger. It can outlast any darkness when it's anchored in truth, and that's what I experienced. We see it all the time in movies, books, and the news: how the human spirit can overcome unbelievable trials and adversity because of one simple hope. To me, hope is what gets us through everyday life, through our struggles, and our belief in hope is strengthened as we succeed or successfully overcome. I think hope is something we can create for ourselves, and it can be a stronger force than anything life throws at us.
* * *
I know the basic facts from my mother's point of view, but I want to hear her thoughts about what she went through when her child was kidnapped and how she's processed it all during the years since it happened. I don't want to interrogate her — she's had enough of that — but I want to delve deeper than we have in the quiet conversations we've had in the past. In those conversations, we shied away from the difficult questions, and if I am to seriously accomplish what I've set out to accomplish in these interviews, I can't shy away from hard questions or avert my eyes from painful answers — not with any of the people I plan to interview, but especially not with Mom.
Sitting with her in the bright sunshine on the deck behind my house, I set my phone on the table between us and set it to record the conversation. Chloé walks between us, stopping occasionally to pat Mom's knee. Looking at her, all pigtailed innocence, it's hard to imagine darkness in the world. It's hard to imagine darkness in my own life. Her chubby little arms reach, trying to pull herself up onto the outdoor sofa in between my mom and me. It's easy to just watch her and forget about the reason I asked my mom to speak with me today. Mom probably wouldn't mind if we did. But I set out to do this.
"What happened the night I was kidnapped?"
"That evening was busy and happy," she says. "Like most evenings."
That's how I remember it, too, even though Mom had been going through a very difficult time. Her father had been diagnosed with a brain tumor three months earlier and died just a few days before I was kidnapped. Mom is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, but she was still reeling a bit from weeks of intense caregiving and worry, followed by the terrible loss of her father and then trying to help in any way she could for his funeral, which took place the day before I was kidnapped.
"After that," she says, "I remember thinking to myself, I have to regroup and get things organized again. I thought, I'm going to plan meals better, and I'm going to be better organized and get back into the routine of things rather than flying by the seat of my pants."
That night, there was an awards ceremony for my eighth-grade graduation, and I was going to be playing my harp. I'd recently made the high school track team, so I wanted to go running before the ceremony. Mom didn't want me to go alone. She made me take my sister, Mary Katherine.
Mom says, "I was cooking dinner, thinking, This'll be great. We'll have dinner and then run down to the awards ceremony assembly. Everything will be good. You were late coming home from running, so that pushed dinner off, and I think your dad was even late coming home from work. I burned dinner, so I opened the kitchen window to air out the kitchen, ready to go to plan 2, which was to skip dinner and go straight to the assembly."
We left the house in a big, happy whirlwind, taking two cars because one car was full of children and the other carried my harp. No one thought anything of the open window, because Mom was always careful about things like that.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Where There's Hope"
Copyright © 2018 Elizabeth Smart.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Hope Empowered: Mom Ann Romney 1
2 Forward at All Costs-Never Retreat Bre Lasley Mary Louise Zeller 25
3 Seeing a Rush of Red Norma Bastidas 51
4 Loss and Renewal Rebecca Covey 71
5 The Sacredness of Faith Fatima Elder Richard G. Hinckley 94
6 Strength of Spirit Diane von Furstenberg Mariatu Kamara 118
7 Our Physical Gift Lara Oles Helen Golden 143
8 Building a Life of Love Angeline Jackson 165
9 The Power to Forgive Chris Williams Archbishop John C. Wester 184
10 Something Worth Striving For Mike Schlappi Nicole Brady 203
11 Living with a Purpose Alec Unsicker Dr. Paul Jenkins 224
12 The Myth versus the Reality of Happily Ever After: Dad Mandy Patinkin 242