Captured by terrorists, kept in solitary confinement, guarded by men with AK47s and little respect for life.
Could you survive it?
Bundaberg photojournalist Nigel Brennan travels to Somalia with Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout. They are abducted by a criminal gang that puts a price of US$3 million on their heads. If it's not paid, they will be killed. And the Australian government does not pay ransoms.
After more than a year of stalled negotiations, Nigel's family takes matters into their own hands. They go against government advice, scarifying their livelihoods, their houses and personal lives to bring the hostages home. Meanwhile, the kidnappers are losing patience. Brutalised, shackled, not knowing when or how the situation will end, Nigel faces the fight of his life.
This is a story about what it takes to survive, and how far a family will go for freedom, whatever the price.
I read The Price of Life after reading Amanda Lindhout's memoir A House in the Sky. They are very different accounts. Lindhout’s book focuses on the ordeal she and Nigel suffered when they are kidnapped whereas this one is written also from the point of view of Nigel and his family. It covers the shock and disbelief on hearing the news (his family thought Nigel was in Kenya, he did not disclose to them that he was going into Somalia). It portrays the stress, tension and frustration involved as they try to negotiate for Nigel and Amanda’s release. Government agents move into Nigel’s parents’ home and his sister and sister in law are trained in how to talk to the kidnappers when they get in touch. Imagine how you would feel in their place and you will know the gamut of emotions they experienced as time drags on and each day they are uncertain about Nigel’s fate. As negotiations stall and the government appear to lose interest, the family set about selling their homes, depleting their bank accounts, fund raising and doing anything they can to raise the cash needed.
Meanwhile Amanda’s pretty dysfunctional Canadian family seem to be dragging their heels in the misplaced hope that their government will come up trumps - they don’t. But Nigel’s family know that Nigel would not entertain the possibility of gaining his own freedom unless Amanda was also set free and they need to raise the money for both ransoms even if the Canadians don’t come up with their share.
They had to learn who to trust - there was so much lying, deception and double dealing with the Somali’s. How to transfer the money without going to jail because it is a criminal offence to fund terrorists. They couldn’t guarantee that the money would actually reach the gang who held their loved ones as there was so much lawlessness and inter-gang warfare, and if the cash (not a cheque or money bond - it was cash! ) did get to its intended recipient, whether that would actually ensure that Nigel and Amanda would be released alive. The emotional toll was horrendous and I wonder what would have happened without their sacrifice, commitment and perseverance
It was a very interesting and informative account, however, be aware that the use of abbreviations for different governmental groups is confusing, so be sure to write down the abbreviation and the meaning when it is first introduced.
A book well worth reading in conjunction with House in the Sky.
Nigel Brennan is on face book and in In 2013, he competed in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, he lives in Sidney.