So I made my list of Books I Lost Sleep Over in 2011 just before the end of the year. Who knew I would find time to read one last book before the new year that would completely rock my world?
Okay, so you guys know that I am a reader of dark subject matter. I will warn you now that this book is neither for the faint of heart nor for those with weak stomachs. I've read a lot of accounts of truly gruesome and evil crimes and this book ranks right up there with the top most terrifying and heartbreaking stories I've ever read.
What made me buy this book is that I remember this news story. I remember when this happened. I live in Philadelphia and this happened in Delaware. Philadelphia news stations cover most of South Jersey and Delaware so what happened to the Puglisis in 1998 was big news in my neck of the woods.
On April 20, 1998, forty-six year old Debra Puglisi was outside her home planting roses when forty year old Donald Flagg, high on cocaine, drove past her house. He "wanted her" so he entered her house where he came into contact with her husband of 25 years, Anthony "Nino" Puglisi. Flagg shot and killed Nino. (Luckily both their children were at college). He waited for Mrs. Puglisi to come inside and when she walked in, he assaulted her. He raped her in her home and then he abducted her. He held her in his home--hog-tied for the most part--for 101 hours, repeatedly sexually assaulting her. She actually found out about her husband's death on the news while captive. Finally, one evening Flagg went to work and Puglisi managed to loosen some of the ties Flagg had bound her with and reach the phone to dial 911.
No one knew where Debra Puglisi was for five days. It got to the point where the media began speculating that she had actually had something to do with her husband's murder. It was a news story that both horrified and captivated our area. I will never forget the giant headlines in our local papers: WHERE IS DEBRA PUGLISI? The entire tri-state area seemed to be holding its breath that week. It was one of those things where people just randomly talked about it in their daily conversations: "Hey did you see that story about that couple? Geez, I hope they find the wife . . . "
I will never, ever forget the day that news of her daring escape broke. The news stations in this area played the 911 tape, at least the end of it. Of course they played the most "sensational" part of it. Puglisi is speaking to the 911 dispatcher who has assured her that the police are just outside the door and she begins screaming. Please, she screams, please, please, please. I will never forget those screams. Have never, in fact, forgotten those screams. All these years later.
We see things on the news every day, read things on the internet about terrible crimes being committed. Few of them really touch us or move us. Sure, we feel badly. We feel sympathy for the victims and their families and we feel anger toward the perpetrators. But few news stories stop us in our tracks, move us to tears or keep us awake nights. For me, this one did.
I had often wondered what became of Mrs. Puglisi and her two children. Had often sent silent prayers up for them. When I saw that she had written a book about what happened to her and her family, I immediately bought it. I took a brief glance at the opening paragraphs and I couldn't stop. I could not stop reading.
Ms. Puglisi-Sharp spares no details. You can feel, actually feel, the stark terror rolling right off the pages like a slap in the face. She intersperses her account of the crime with memories of her husband and children so that, very quickly, you have an excellent grasp on the depth and breadth of the lives that were shattered in a matter of moments.
So why read this book? One word: POWER.
This book is powerful. Ms. Puglisi Sharp is a powerful, heroic woman, a powerful example of what it means to be a survivor, a wife, a mother, a human being. Her grace and strength are also palpable. She is completely, unflinchingly honest about every step along this terrible journey and I think that makes her story even more powerful. If you want to understand how people survive the worst violent crimes imaginable--read this book. You will be in awe of this woman who saved her own life under the most unimaginable circumstances. Awe, I tell you.
I have never read anything like this and I've read a lot of books.
In fact this book is actually required reading in many college criminal justice classes as part of their studies of victimology. Ms. Puglisi Sharp has in fact become a public speaker, inspiring other crime victims with her message of hope. She also speaks in front of various law enforcement agencies to help them better understand what victims and survivors of violent crime endure. You can actually check out her website here.
I know this is hardly light reading but I feel compelled to share this. This woman is truly one of my heroes and this book is one of the most powerful things I've ever read.