Elizabeth Smart’s abduction in 2002 shook the Salt Lake Valley, and became the subject of significant national media attention. Her family was thrust into the media spotlight for months, with journalists and detectives scrutinizing each minute detail of the case in hopes of finding Elizabeth or her abductor. What was absent those nine months was Elizabeth’s story, which largely remained absent following the 2009 and 2010 trials of Wanda Barzee and Brian David Mitchell, respectively. My Story is the chapter of the saga that, despite its brutality, needed to be shared. With the help of co-writer Chris Stewart, Smart’s vulnerability helps to close the books on her ordeal for those who became so invested in it, and seemingly closes this chapter in her life for Smart herself.
Critically speaking, the writing isn’t particularly strong, but the story itself is compelling enough to move past that fact. Smart’s authenticity shines through in this work and amply covers for any technical deficit.
The tale is brutal, but she discusses the graphic elements rather plainly, describing her emotional response more than detailing physical facts. Her pervasive hope and faith carry her through situations that are more intense than any person should bear. The driving force throughout the story is her love for her family and the strong connection they share, emphasized in the pinnacle moment: their reunion. Prepare to openly weep when she describes seeing her mother again.
The greatest travesty in My Story is a fact that Smart readily acknowledges: despite the trauma she endured, she was lucky. Her story mirrors the plight of millions of children globally; many of those children will not return to their families, and their tales of suffering remain untold. Smart’s understanding of this is what led her to become an advocate for child welfare, including starting the Elizabeth Smart Foundation. There is great redemption in knowing Smart has conquered her past, and that she now uses her experience for education and advocacy.
Errin Pedersen is the Adult Services Manager at Salt Lake City Public Library.