Friday, November 15, 2013

The Girl With No Name (Marina Chapman)

The Girl With No Name: The Incredible True Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys

Wow. This is an amazing story. It was published just recently and is the story of a girl who was abandoned in the jungles of Columbia as a child. She lived with monkeys for years. She ended up escaping the jungle, but you might wonder if she wouldn't have been better off to stay there. What a story. What impressed me most about the story was how she has a deep sense of good. Despite being raised with animals and having no idea about civilized life, she had a desire to do the best she could and to be a person of character.

Goodreads summary:

In 1954, in a remote mountain village in South America, a little girl was abducted. She was four years old. Marina Chapman was stolen from her housing estate and then abandoned deep in the Colombian jungle. That she survived is a miracle. Two days later, half-drugged, terrified, and starving, she came upon a troop of capuchin monkeys. Acting entirely on instinct, she tried to do what they did: she ate what they ate and copied their actions, and little by little, learned to fend for herself.

So begins the story of her five years among the monkeys, during which time she gradually became feral; she lost the ability to speak, lost all inhibition, lost any real sense of being human, replacing the structure of human society with the social mores of her new simian family. But society was eventually to reclaim her. At age ten she was discovered by a pair of hunters who took her to the lawless Colombian city of Cucuta where, in exchange for a parrot, they sold her to a brothel. When she learned that she was to be groomed for prostitution, she made her plans to escape. But her adventure wasn’t over yet...

In the vein of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "City of God," this rousing story of a lost child who overcomes the dangers of the wild and the brutality of the streets to finally reclaim her life will astonish readers everywhere.

It was so interesting to read about how foreign everything we consider normal was to her. At one point she is washing dishes and one falls and breaks:

Chapter 17: I had no memory of simple things like  plates, for example - at least, not plates that went smash! if you dropped them. 'Esfragil' was a word that had no meaning for me until the point when a wet plate, which Lolita had indicate dI should dry, slid from my clumby fingers and exploded into a million pieces across the floor. How had it done that? Why had it done that? Istared wide-eyed at the messat my feet, fascinated.

I didn't associate the 'crash' sound with anything being wrong - why would I? I just looked at pieces on the floor, trying to understand it, because I'd not seen a texture like it before. Ana-Karmen came to hit me, so I naturally ran to hide, but for what misdemeanour, I didn't know. I was just curious. I didn't think, 'Oh, no, I broke a plate. Now I'm in trouble!' The whole concept was completely alient to me. Yes, I was shocked at the volume and intrigued by the discovery of a new noise. But again, I was in control of it. I knew where it had come from, so maybe that's why I didn't fear it so much. I was just desperate to understand.

In a few of the places she ends up living, prostitution becomes an issue. She is approached a number of times by men, but for some reason, escapes their grasps.

Chapter 21: I might have been wrong, of course - and who was I to stand in judgment over these girls anyway? What did I know of the circumstances in which their children were conceived? But in my adolescent mind, with its black and white view of the world, perhaps did me great favour in that respect. My experience at Ana-Karmen's had taught me a valuable lesson - that sex, for many men, at least, was a different thing from love. In the world of the brothen, the prostitute was seen as a commodity - something to be bought and sold for cash. And the consequences were there for all to see. The man promising everything, the girl believing all of it, and then, nine months later, another unwatned street baby being born with the father nowhere to be seen.

I didn't want that. I wanted a home, I wanted a husband and I wanted children. So, hard though it would be later, when a boy would try to woo me, or someone would try to entice me with a plan involving drugs, drink or crime, I would listen to the voice in my head that said, "Hold on - one day you're going to be someone.'

She learns a lot from the monkeys she lived with - most importantly of all, perhaps, to have hope and to work hard. She decides to knock on doors in a city to see if someone will take her in:

Chapter 24: It was a soul-destroying, miserable, thankless, lonely mission. I walked up and down street after street, footsore and thirsty trudging in the heat. And everyone, without exception, still told me to go away. disheartened, I decided I would simply give it - it seemed so pointless - but then a memory surfaced that took me by surprise. I remembered the first time I watched a monkey get a nut from its casing - how long it had taken and how hard he had worke.d How he'd searched for the right rock, with a hollow to place the nut in - a job that itself took a long time - and how he'd found another rock and toiled away for so long, repeatedly hitting it till he was rewarded with that first small encouraging crack. Even then it took a lot more effort to break it open. The tastiest nuts didn't give up their treasures lightly. You had to earn them. Just as I had to earn this.

She lives on the street much of the time and one experience, in particular, shook her. She finds a box in the garbage that is locked. It looks like a cash box that she saw when she lived with a criminal family. She takes it. It's locked so she has to figure out how to open it, but before she can, some other boys living on the street steal it away from her. She chases them but they escape. She can see them at a distance working on opening the box when suddenly the world explodes. She realizes she must be destined for something better:

Chapter 26: Their deaths haunted me, however, dya and night. I couldn't get the image of them out of my mind and was plagued by the thought that it should have been me who died instead  of them. Why had fate arranged it for those boys to snatch the box from me? Why had I been unable to scale that high fence? Why had I been spared and their lives taken so violently? I had no idea, but I was alive. It appears that I had chated what fate had planned for me and I figured there must be a reason. The thought made me determined to find myself a better life.

The story is absolutely astounding. It doesn't take too long to read this book. It's a great read. The book is full of sadness and compassion. It's full of death and a fight to live. It is full of kindness, adapting, learning, and even religion. It's an amazing and true story.

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