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Impossible Odds: The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan and Her Dramatic Rescue by SEAL Team Six

A New York Times bestseller!

In 2006, twenty-seven-year-old Jessica Buchanan stepped off a plane in Nairobi, Kenya, with a teaching degree and long-held dreams of helping to educate African children. By 2009, she had met and married a native Swede named Erik Landemalm, who worked to coordinate humanitarian aid with authorities in Africa. Together the two moved from Nairobi to Somalia, and with hopes of starting a family, their future couldn’t have been brighter. . . .

But on October 25, 2011, Jessica and a colleague were kidnapped at gunpoint and held for ransom by a band of Somali pirates. For the next three months, Jessica was terrorized by more than two dozen gangsters, held outdoors in filthy conditions, and kept on a starvation diet while her health steadily deteriorated. Negotiations for ransom dragged on, and as the ordeal stretched into its third month, the captors grew increasingly impatient. Every terrifying moment Jessica Buchanan spent suffering in captivity was matched by that of her adoring husband working behind the scenes to deal with her captors. After ninety-three days of fruitless negotiations, and with Jessica’s medical state becoming a life-or-death issue, President Barack Obama ordered Navy SEAL Team Six to attempt a rescue operation. On January 25, 2012, just before the president delivered his State of the Union speech, the team of twenty-four SEALs, under the cover of darkness, attacked the heavily armed hostiles. They killed all nine with no harm to the hostages, who were quickly airlifted out on a military rescue helicopter.

In riveting detail, this book chronicles Jessica and Erik’s mutual journey during those torturous months. Together they relate the events prior to the kidnapping, the drama of Jessica’s fight to stay alive, and Erik’s efforts to bolster and support the hunt for her while he acted as liaison between their two families, the FBI, professional hostage negotiators, and the United States government. Both a testament to two people’s courage and a nail-biting look at a life-or-death struggle, this is a harrowing and deeply personal story about their triumph over impossible odds.

Author Q&A with Jessica Buchanan

Jessica Buchanan

Q. The descriptions of both Jessica’s captivity and Erik’s ordeal waiting are so vivid. Was it difficult to revisit that point in your lives?

It was difficult to revisit such traumatic incidents in our lives, but we also found the process incredibly therapeutic in some ways. We felt fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a fantastic writer such as Anthony Flacco, and in doing so, Erik and I soon discovered, that through the writing process, we were able to have conversations with each other that maybe we never would have had before. The hardest things to do, are often the most healing and healthy things, in the long run.

The writing process for Impossible Odds was a bit unconventional—as Anthony remained in Seattle writing, and Erik and I were still living in Nairobi during the writing of the book. I was too far along in my pregnancy to travel, so we decided the only way to move forward on our collaboration was to talk over video Skype. Throughout power outages, Internet connections going down, and an 11-hour time difference (as well as a brand new baby!) The three of us somehow were able to connect and lay to paper detail upon detail, of our lives, the kidnapping and captivity, as well as the rescue. It was difficult to stir up all those memories, but Anthony was so kind, intuitive and understanding, we both found ourselves looking forward to our sessions with him. We found that we were able to process through all the past events in a safe environment with Anthony. He was committed with us, to produce a technically accurate and emotional account of our experience. We couldn’t have asked for a more sensitive and respectful writer to work with.

Q. What made you decide to write Impossible Odds? And, why now?

When I first came out of captivity, so many people were encouraging me to record and relay the experiences I had been through—but I knew it was not the right time for me. I knew that I would know when the time was right, if it was ever right, to share my story. Our main objective in writing Impossible Odds was to relay our gratitude to those involved in securing my freedom, and also to friends and family all around the world. As for the time frame—I can’t explain it, other than that I knew it was the right time.

Q. What do you hope readers take away from Impossible Odds?

Our hope for readers who read Impossible Odds is that they will be inspired to help those in need, and also to be reminded that the human spirit is impenetrable—we are so strong, capable and possess such fortitude, no matter what our situations we may be experiencing. It’s our responsibility to pass on the message that no matter what kind of impossible situation you may be facing, there is help along the way.

Through this experience, I learned that the human spirit is indeed indomitable. It’s amazing how you can manage to find strength in such small happenings, no matter how hopeless your situation may seem—you just have to choose to look for them. Every night, before I would go to sleep, I would try to list five good things from that day. Oftentimes more than not, it was an extreme challenge to find something good, but it gave me something to do. My colleague often said “Optimism is what makes us sleep at night.” And I added to the thought that “Negativity keeps us up at night.” So we needed to stay positive, hopeful, and above all else, without despair.

To those who find themselves in a hopeless situation, I encourage you to remain hopeful in something. When you need it the most, life, God, love, will give you that extra measure of strength to dig a little deeper, even when you feel you are completely empty of any resources or hope. You will be surprised to find that you are able to scrape out just enough to get through that day. It may not be more than enough—but just enough has got to be ok, and as I have experienced day after day after day—just enough will do just fine.

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O. Brown "Ms. O. Khannah-Brown" says:

Incredible Story, Suspenseful and Well-Told *****This book is even better than the media coverage that has surrounded it recently–it is well-written, VERY suspenseful, and dramatic. It is told from the point-of-views of both Jessica Buchanan (an aid worker in Somalia who was held captive by rogue Somali kidnappers) and her husband Erik Landemalm (who also worked to aid the people of Africa). Jessica was working to protect the people of Somalia when she was abducted; the work she was doing was nonpolitical and nonreligious. The…

ChristianCritic says:

Compelling Story of Heroism and Hope This book wastes no time throwing you into desert of Somalia with Jessica and empathetically wondering, “Will she make it?” It is a unique story of someone who has endured so much at the hands of a ruthless enemy, but it is also the story of a family fighting for her from afar. The descriptions of her father in this book make me think of a character I saw once, played by Jeff Bridges, he’s loving, tender hearted, and faithful to God to the very end. But the story isn’t overtly about faith or…

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