Monday, October 31, 2016
American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes, and Trial of Patty Hearst
I knew so little about this story -- I only knew it as an example of Stockholm syndrome (which Toobin shows is not a thing, and even if it were, this case is not an example of it). Toobin's American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst puts the strange events in the historical context of the 70s, where middle class young people were setting off bombs right and left -- there were far more terrorist incidents then than there have been since 9/11. He provides rich information about the members of the Symbionese Liberation Army -- their backgrounds, and characters, and love lives -- as well as the six months Patty spent with most of them, and her year as a fugitive. I had no idea she was involved in so much violence, but I also did not understand the violence and rage of that decade.
Toobin provides information about the all the players, other than the radicals, so you have a strong sense of the emotion of the drama: Patty's parents, her fiance (who fled the kidnapping immediately), a number of detectives, etc.
The most powerful part is the Afterward. I was so immersed in the detailed, blow-by-blow account of the main action in the 70s, that when he pulls back and jumps into the present I was jolted by the sense of the passage of time, of the history I have lived through, of how different the world is now.