69 pages 2 hours read

Amanda Lindhout, Sara Corbett

A House in the Sky

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2013

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Summary and Study Guide


A House in the Sky is a memoir co-written by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett, published in 2013. The book recounts Lindhout’s experience as a Canadian journalist who was kidnapped and held captive in Somalia for 460 days. The memoir delves deep into The Psychological Impact of Captivity, exploring how Lindhout coped with the severe conditions she faced by holding on to hope and using survival strategies that centered around mental resilience and the creation of an inner sanctuary she refers to as “a house in the sky.” Through her story, the memoir also highlights The Consequences of Geopolitical Conflicts, portraying the complex environment of Somalia, which has been torn apart by decades of civil war and has become a hotbed for militant groups.

This guide refers to the 2014 Penguin Book edition.

Content Warning: The memoir includes detailed descriptions of physical and sexual violence, psychological abuse, and extreme hardship. It also discusses topics related to captivity and torture.


A House in the Sky is a memoir by Amanda Lindhout, recounting her days in captivity in Somalia and her struggle to survive through hope and resilience. This guide is divided into six parts: Part 1 covers the Prologue and Chapters 1 to 7; Part 2 includes Chapters 8 to 15; Part 3 focuses on Chapters 16 to 23; Part 4 addresses Chapters 24 to 31; Part 5 comprises Chapters 32 to 39; and Part 6 explores Chapters 40 to 44 and the Epilogue.

In the Prologue of her memoir, Lindhout recounts the constant movement and hiding during her captivity. She describes the different houses she was kept in, each symbolically named based on the experiences or characteristics of the place, such as the “Bomb-Making House” and the “Escape House.” In the remainder of Part 1, Lindhout details her early life and the beginning of her traveling adventures. She describes her childhood, marked by poverty and a sense of confinement within her small-town life. As she grew older, Lindhout started traveling to various countries, driven by her desire to explore and experience the beauty and diversity of the world.

In Part 2, Lindhout explores various experiences and adventures before her kidnapping. This part details her travels to different countries, including Afghanistan, where she reflects on the risks she faces as a traveler and journalist in conflict zones. She recounts episodes of near-misses and her decisions to retreat from particularly dangerous situations, showcasing her growing awareness of the risks inherent in her chosen path. These chapters explore her internal conflicts, and the stark realities she confronts, which illustrate her complex relationship with the thrill and peril of her travels.

In Part 3, Lindhout focuses on her experience of being kidnapped and held captive in Somalia. She details the initial moments of the kidnapping, her interactions with her captors, and the psychological and emotional challenges she faces during her captivity. The narrative covers the planning and execution of her abduction, her daily experiences with the guards, the threats made against her life, and the conditions of the makeshift prison where she and her fellow captive, Nigel, are held. Lindhout also describes her attempts to negotiate with her captors, her efforts to maintain hope, and the struggles to preserve her dignity and sanity under extreme duress.

In Part 4, Lindhout continues to focus on her experiences of captivity in Somalia. She details her life as a hostage, describing the interactions with her captors and fellow prisoners, as well as the emotional and physical struggles she endures. Lindhout also recounts the brutal realities of her situation, including violence and the constant threat of further harm. This part also describes her desperate and dangerous attempt to escape captivity with Nigel, which highlights their determination to regain freedom. Throughout this section, Lindhout reflects on her identity, survival, and the relationships that form under such extreme circumstances.

In Part 5, Lindhout recounts her experiences and shifting dynamics while in captivity in Somalia. She describes various moves between different houses, each presenting its own set of challenges and fleeting moments of relief or hope, albeit often crushed by the harsh reality of her situation. Lindhout also delves into her captors’ lives and beliefs, providing insights into their motivations and the socio-political turmoil surrounding them. Her story oscillates between moments of despair, attempts at making human connections, and clinging to any semblance of hope or normalcy—such as her interaction with a picture of a young boy named Omar, which becomes a symbol of innocence and the life outside her captivity.

In the last part of the book, Lindhout discusses the grueling continuation and eventual end of her captivity in Somalia. She recounts the negotiations for her release, involving her family and various mediators, which culminates in her freedom after 15 months of captivity. In the Epilogue, she reflects on her return to Canada, her efforts to heal and process the trauma, and her subsequent work in supporting educational and development initiatives in Somalia.

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