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Michelle Renee

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

NINE DAYS: Living with My Soul Wide Open after Violent Trauma (June 2023) is a memoir by Michelle Renee, whose first book, Held Hostage, was made into a Lifetime movie. Nine Days picks up where Held Hostage left off and chronicles a single mother's 4,200-mile solo road trip up the coast of California and into the rugged terrain of the Alaskan wilderness. Surviving on little money or food, Michelle braves the elements and confronts her turbulent past on her way to return to her daughter and prepare to come face to face with one of their kidnappers… again. NINE DAYS is a story of guts, grit, and determination that depicts the torment and triumph of forging ahead against all odds on the road that terrifies, challenges, and ultimately sets her free.
How long does it take for trauma to heal? Decades after the harrowing events recounted in her 2016 book Held Hostage, Renee dives into the aftermath of the 2000 kidnapping that upended her life. Time after that wrenching experience and its aftershocks felt, Renee writes, like living in “invisible chains that took years, and miles, to unlock.” Nine Days explores the process of unlocking, as Renee details both her journey toward healing, over years, but also a more literal journey, “the road trip of a lifetime” in the months before the kidnappers stood trial, her drive of some 4,000 miles, from San Diego to Eagle River, Alaska, with her pit bull Haley as her only company, save for the souls she encounters along the way.

Renee had left her “crime scene” home to fly to Alaska with her daughter, Breea, finding safe haven at her mother-in-law’s house. But Renee soon had to return to San Diego to salvage or give away what was left of her life there. That handled, she answered the calling of her soul, relishing the nine day drive while rushing to make Eagle River for Breea’s eighth birthday. Without money for motels, Renee sleeps in her car or camps with pepper spray in hand. As she endures flashbacks and moments of terror, like leaving her keys and Haley locked in her car, Renee finds herself learning again to ask for help and trust others.

Moments of road-trip splendor also help: “I hadn’t felt so purely, deeply in the moment, and connected, ever in my life,” Renee writes of driving through the Canadian Rockies. Trauma grows after the trial, as the verdicts don’t slam the case shut, and Renee faces lies and innuendos as she seeks justice. Renee brings healing full circle as, years later, she moves toward active, radical forgiveness in a face-to-face encounter with the past. The result is complex and heartening, a feat of empathy.

Takeaway: Healing, forgiveness, and a marvelous road trip power this touching memoir.

Comparable Titles: Lysa TerKeurst’s Forgiving What You Can't Forget, Stephanie Foo’s What My Bones Know.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

Michelle Renee Interview with Rushion McDonald

A new memoir, “NINE DAYS: Living With My Soul Wide Open After Violent Trauma.”   After a life-altering home invasion and bank robbery leave their lives shattered, a single mother and her dog embark on a terrifying 4,200-mile road trip into the Alaskan wilderness to return to her daughter.