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An Evil Cradling: The Five-Year Ordeal of a Hostage Paperback – August 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1986 Keenan left Belfast, where he was born into a Protestant, working-class family, for Beirut and a teaching job at the American University. Soon after arriving, he was kidnapped by fundamentalist Shi'ite militiamen and held hostage, apparently because they believed he was British. Despite pleas from the Irish Embassy in Beirut, he remained a hostage. Keenan here unveils a tale of resistance, Irish style, incorporating many of the nonviolent methods that Irish patriots have used over the years--fasting and "going on the blanket," i.e., choosing to remain naked rather than wear prison clothes. Initially confined to a 4 6 cell, he withstood monotony and filth. Eventually, he was moved into a cell with John McCarthy, a British journalist from an upper-class family. The dichotomy in their backgrounds made for instant friendship. Ironically, the "stars" of this memoir are the Muslim guards, religious fanatics who were capable of great kindnesses (a birthday cake for McCarthy) and brutalities (vicious beatings). A riveting and terrifying read that finally ends with the exhilaration of Keenan's inexplicable release (he neglects to tell us, though, about McCarthy's fate).
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In the spring of 1986, Keenan, a young Irish teacher, was kidnapped from the streets of Beirut. He was finally released into Syrian custody by his Shi'ite captors in 1991 after long stretches of solitary confinement, punctuated by brutality and deprivation: at times, he shared imprisonment with fellow hostages Frank Reed, Terry Anderson, John McCarthy, and Tom Sutherland. An Evil Cradling , a best seller in Britain and the inspiration for the play, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me , is not an "ordinary" recitation of hostage terror and tribulation. Instead, it is an insightful exploration of the human condition when confronted with involuntary bondage and impending mortality. Keenan's background as a poet allowed him to enlarge the vocabulary of his experience into utterances of emotional and psychological truths. Highly recommended for all libraries, whether or not they have strong subject collections in this area.
- David Snider, Casa Grande P.L., Ariz.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (August 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140236414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140236415
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,079,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A. Peel on August 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon and pursued the leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), who were operating out of Beirut. A Multinational Force, in support of the then government, was set up in an attempt to stabilise the situation by separating the Muslim and Christian communities, however, by February 1984 the risks had become so great that the MNF was obliged to pull out of Lebanon, threatened by the prospects of civil war, and fearful of further terrorist attacks.
The author of "An Evil Cradling", Brian Keenan, was taken prisoner a couple of years later, in 1986, and in this work he gives a gruelling account of his harsh and lonely imprisonment, enlightened mainly by vitally important snatches of human contact and interaction, largely with John McCarthy, a British journalist also held prisoner at the same time.
Keenan left Ireland for Beirut in an attempt to flee the interminable, religious troubles of his homeland. It is true that by birth, he should have been less implicated in the religious conflicts of Lebanon, and yet ironically he came to suffer four and a half years of imprisonment, despite being an "outsider" to the difficulties in Beirut. He was an Irishman, not a Brit, an American or a Frenchman. His country had played no role in Lebanon and yet as an Irishman on the run, perhaps mistakenly taken for a Brit, he innocently fell into the very heart of the troubles. What he lived and felt is recounted here in beautifully written poetry and prose. It is a book which I know will remain engrained in my memory, and this being the case, I can only begin to imagine how much the experience will haunt him for the rest of his life.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Hutton on February 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is undoubtedly one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It is not a chronological or day to day catalog of how one man survived an ordeal which most of us could only imagine (being held hostage in Lebanon for five? years because some terrorists mistook him for an Englishman, when he was actually Irish), but rather a look at how his inner resources helped him survive, and helps the reader understand what a resourceful and mentally strong will it takes to do so. This is a cut above, and frankly, a book that has not been far from my thoughts since I finished it...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is perhaps the most moving piece of literature I have ever read. In Brian's journey we are forced to take a look at our own journeys through life. I remember when he was a hostage and everyday the local newspaper in Belfast would publish how many days he had been missing. As those numbers crept upward we despaired but his sisters were ever hopeful and forced us to keep him always in our minds. His account of his captivity is so inspiring. It is wonderful to see how his sense of humor and love of the written word kept him going. More recently I have read his accounts of his visit to Chile with John McCarthy. Here is a man with a real gift for using words to describe torrents of emotion and who's use of poetry illuminates the soul. If you read only one book in your life read this one!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Keck on March 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
What words describe this book?
Powerful, disturbing, haunting and yet beautiful, inspirational, darkly humorous, certainly well written. Every emotion is experienced as one is taken into the dark world and life he lived. Every emotion stays alive within you for some time after reading it.
Although the book describes in detail the horrible events of his hostage ordeal, the overwhelming theme is the absolute need and tremendous importance of human relationships, interdependancy and love. Mr. Keenan shows us the depths possible in friendship and trust. If these can sustain hostages in hell, certainly they can transform any life. He has caused me to re-evaluate my own human condition.
Equally important in today's post-9/11 world, anyone who is asking what is in a terrorist's mind to drive them to such evil will find answers here. He describes the beliefs, motivations and values of those terrorists who held him - not much removed from those of today. Their world is in every sense foreign to "Westerners."
It is an honor to have read this book. One is left thinking "God bless Brian and God help the rest of us."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By School Student on June 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
'An Evil Cradling' by Brian Keenan is an amazing journey of one man's torment amongst the captivity of Lebanese militiamen. As a reader, we are able to gain a valuable insight into his physical and mental sufferings along with the ways he tried to deal with his near experiences of insanity. Along the way we meet many of his collective friends, but one who is most memorable would of course be John Macarthy. Together they were able to overcome many emotional and brutal events that otherwise, could have led to their destruction. The language in 'An Evil Cradling' is most descriptive and obviously, reflects Keenan's vivid memory of his immense ordeal. This is purely a general overview, so if anyone would like to find out more; feel free to email me. It is definitely worth finding more about!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
Last Wednesday I met Brian Keenan in a restaurant in Cork Ireland. I got to shake the man's hand which he offered to me warmly accompanied with a kiss on the cheek. I was very moved. The book is an essential read and while some readers have been put off by his ordeal the book primarily deals with himself and the journey he goes on to find his true spirit. It is a revelation. The loving relationship he has with John McCarthy is moving to the point of tears. Even though this happened 6 years ago we must never forget man's amazing ability to survive in the midest of such an horrendous ordeal.
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