Sunday, May 23, 2021

Book Review - I Have Life: Alison's Journey as told to Marianne Thamm

Title: I Have Life: Alison's Journey
Author: as told to Marianne Thamm
Publisher: Penguin Books (South Africa)
Publication Date: June 1st 2016 (first published 1995)
Print Length: 243 pages
Genre: True Crime Biography
The triumphant story of a woman who refused to become a victim.

Like an apparition, conjured out of the darkness, a young man with light blond hair pushed his face into the car. I immediately spotted the knife. It was a long, thin weapon, almost like a letter opener, with a tapering blade. It felt cold and spiny as he pressed it to my neck. When he spoke his voice, which was quiet and controlled, sounded as though it emanated from a distant planet. But every word thudded into my skull.

“Move over or I’ll kill you,” he whispered.

And so began Alison’s nightmare journey with the two callous killers who were to rape her, stab her so many times doctors could not count the wounds, slit her throat and leave her for dead in a filthy clearing miles from the city of Port Elizabeth which was her home.

But Alison defied death. And more than that, she denied her attackers the satisfaction of destroying her life. I Have Life is the triumphant story of a woman who refused to become a victim. The courage which allowed her to move beyond severe physical and emotional trauma and to turn a devastating experience into something life-affirming and strong, is an inspiration to people everywhere.

I first heard about Alison Botha on a true crime podcast. What happened to Alison and her will to survive really piqued my interest. When I discovered her biography, I Have Life, I knew I had to read it right away. While what happened to Alison was beyond horrific, her will to survive and her outlook on life afterwards were inspirational.

Reading about Alison's abduction, rape, and attempted murder will definitely leave you with your jaw on the floor. Alison holds nothing back about anything throughout her biography whether it is the horrific events that happened to her or her will to survive emotionally after her wounds have healed. Marianne Thamm, the journalist that Alison told her story to in order to write her biography does a wonderful job of tying everything together for the most part. About halfway through though, I felt like I Have Life stopped being a biography and started becoming a self-help book with Alison writing (speaking to Thamm) about how to become a happier person. Luckily, this only lasts for a few chapters, but I felt like maybe the chapters about being happier and such should be in a self-help book. (Alison gives talks around the world about her ordeal, so perhaps that's why these chapters were included?) Otherwise Marianne Thamm's writing of Alison Botha's biography was flawless. I was immersed the whole time. I felt like I was right besides Alison the whole time. I kept wanting there to be a different outcome when Alison was abducted by Frans even though I knew there wouldn't be. I felt like Alison really wants the stigma for rape survivors to be no more (and she's right as there shouldn't be any stigma attached). I felt like everything I wanted to know about Alison was answered in I Have Life - from what happened to Alison at the point of her abduction, the rape, the brutal attempted to murder, to the trial of her rapists and attacker to how her life was like at the writing of the book. Like I said, Thamm and Alison don't really leave anything to the imagination of which I was grateful.

Trigger warnings for I Have Life include graphic rape, graphic violence, attempted murder, abduction, and profanity.

All in all, I Have Life is a deeply disturbing book to read, but it does have a great outcome. It is well put together, and Alison Botha comes across as such a strong inspirational woman. Alison's story is full of hope and wisdom throughout. I would definitely recommend I Have Life: Alison's Journey as told to Marianne Thamm for those ages 18+ who are into true crime or for those that just want to see how strong the human will is to survive.

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