I’d not heard of Matthew Schrier prior to this book popping up on my list. Not being American I guess I missed most of the hubbub around his imprisonment and escape from al-Nusra Front – aka the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.
Schrier does a great job recounting the details of daily life imprisoned in squalid conditions, however, I can’t help but think perhaps there is some exaggeration going on about how well he magically got along with everyone. Call me a cynic, but everyone he met he apparently had guffawing in laughter and backslaps… kind of like when people bang on a “and then everyone cheered” and the end of an obviously made-up story.
I’m not saying he didn’t get onside with his captors using his humour, I’m just wondering how accurate his portrayal of events actually was in regards to this.
One of his fellow cellmates was Theo Padnos, who he describes as a simpering, bootlicking and weak-minded. I’ve not yet read Theo’s side of the story, but it’s obvious they didn’t get along. Theo had been held captive for three months prior to Schrier meeting him, so I think it unfair how quick to deride and judge him Schrier was. It seemed to me that Padnos was a broken man just trying to get through, and Schrier made his own days easier by finding an easy target to hate on.
All that aside, it was an interesting glimpse behind the curtain of what life is like for those captured by militants during the conflict. I can’t help but wonder how many more innocent people were caught up in these events and tortured or executed for simply being in the wrong place.
Captivating, I listened to the almost 10 hours in a few sittings. Narration by Michael David Axtell was top-notch, delivering the depth and sense of despair needed to fully appreciate the words.