THE DESERT AND THE SEA by Michael Scott Moore
Kirkus Star


977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast
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A harrowing and affecting account of two and a half years of captivity at the hands of Somali pirates.

“It’s hard to write one adventurous book without thinking about another,” writes Moore early on, recounting his quest, told in Sweetness and Blood (2010), to document how the American fascination with surfing had spread into other parts of the world. Americans and the rest of the world were then fascinated with the pirates making news by marauding off the Horn of Africa, and so the author traveled to witness them firsthand. “The rise of modern pirates buzzing off Somalia was an example of entropy in my lifetime,” he writes, “and it seemed important to know why there were pirates at all.” He quickly learned. Taken captive, Moore learned lessons in the sociology, economics, and psychology of piracy while at the same time enduring some terrible treatment—some of it for show, some of it quite in earnest—as his captors tried to convince his poor mother, and then whomever would listen, to come up with $20 million for his freedom. There’s plenty of gallows humor as Moore settles in for his long spell of unhappiness. When his young captors, “stoned on narcotic cud,” blast music from their cellphones, he asks a senior to get them to turn it down. “They’re soldiers,” he’s told by way of explanation, to which he replies, “ask them to be quiet soldiers.” Imprisoned among a score or so of other captives, mostly Chinese and Filipino, the author discerned that many Somalis turn to piracy for lack of other opportunities, but while “each pirate was here to steal my money,” few were eager to cause him personal harm. Moore’s humane consideration of his captors reflects some of the small kindnesses he was shown, but it also contrasts with the indifference of Western officials who, it seems, would sooner have sent in the bombers than pay the ransom.

A deftly constructed and tautly told rejoinder to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, sympathetic but also sharp-edged.

Pub Date: July 24th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-06-244917-7
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Harper Wave/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2018


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