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A Rope and a Prayer: A Kidnapping from Two Sides Hardcover – November 30, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For a harrowing seven months of captivity, Rohde, a Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times foreign correspondent on assignment in war-torn Afghanistan, survived after being kidnapped, with two Afghan colleagues, by the Taliban in November 2008, suffering from all of the cruel terrorist maneuvering and hapless government countermoves during the crisis. Rohde wrote a series of articles for the Times about his experiences, but here Rohde alternates chapters with Mulvihill, to whom he had been married for two months at the time of his kidnapping. In suspenseful prose, he recounts his abduction and she describes her efforts, along with those of the Times, to secure his release by writing everyone in government and negotiating with the Taliban. Rohde's escape, with one of his colleagues, received major media coverage. Possibly the most informative segments of the book are the masterly observations of life with the jihadists, the chaotic Pakistani tribal areas and the topsy-turvy war itself. This potent story of love and conflict ends well, but not without making some smart and edgy commentary on terrorism, hostage negotiation, political agendas, and the human heart. Map. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

New York Times reporter Rohde writes about his ordeal as a hostage of the Taliban, after he was kidnapped in Afghanistan in November 2008. Rohde covered most of this story in a five-part series in the New York Times, available online. The new element here is the juxtaposition of his narrative with that of his wife’s, Kristen Mulvihill, who describes her own agony and quest to have Rohde freed. Even though the pieces are in place for a thrilling account from both parties, the writing on Mulvihill’s part feels flat and predictable. This may be because, as with the accounts of the Daniel Pearl tragedy from his wife’s perspective, we already know the outcome. Rohde’s portion is by far the most readable. His accounts of the difficulties of reporting from this danger-pocked landscape and his descriptions of his second-guessing himself about his reporting choices are especially compelling. --Connie Fletcher
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (November 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022236
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By N. B. Kennedy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This narrative of the capture of New York Times reporter David Rohde by the Taliban is unique in that it presents not only the captive's experience, but that of his wife, Kristen Mulvihill, as well.

The two were newly married, and Mr. Rohde was in Afghanistan, hoping to snag one more interview for a book he was writing. After that, he promised his wife he'd come home and settle down. The catch is that the interview was with a Taliban leader in the dicey tribal border lands of Pakistan.

Of course, he is captured and held for months, shuttled back and forth between Taliban prisons, while back in the States his wife works tirelessly for his release. In the end, all the negotiations come to nothing and Mr. Rohde saves himself, making a daring escape along with another captive.

The most interesting part of the book to me was Mr. Rohde's description of his imprisonment. It matches up well with that of another Taliban captive, Jere Van Dyk (Captive: My Time as a Prisoner of the Taliban). Their description of the capricious nature of their unpredictable captors is very similar. But Mr. Rohde is less forthcoming about his inner life. He seems determined to tough it out, and maybe that's what got him through, but his reserve created an emotional distance for me that I wish weren't there. When he does talk of emotions, it's usually in the context of faking them in order to gain release.

The same is true of Ms. Mulvihill. She is a strong woman, and that serves her well. But she withholds at crucial times, too. Here is how she describes telling her mother about her husband's capture: "[I] bring her up to speed while Lee phones his wife from the other room.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kristin Delfau on December 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I initially picked up Rohde and Mulvihill's book after hearing them interviewed on NPR--their story sounded interesting even though I am not someone who is usually interested in hostage or kidnapping narratives.

Their way of presenting two sides of the same horrible ordeal allows the reader to fully capture what both the hostage and his/her family had to experience, as well the perception of the different players involved in the situation. Also, the thread of black humor that intermittently arose added to the "human factor" of this book--after all, often times humor can save us from the deepest levels of dispair.

I also appreciated David's insight into his captor's perceptions of the West as well as their extremist twist on their religion. For those of us who don't completely understand the complexities of the region, A Rope & A Prayer broke it down quite well. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Phillip A. Nickel on December 29, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This account is of a journalist who was kidnapped in 2007 by Taliban extremists in Afghanistan, transported to southern Pakistan and kept prisoner over seven months while experiencing psychological torture, mainly by promises of release that would not come. The story is alternately told by both the captive and his wife of two months, who seeks aid from various sources for her husband's safe return.

The tale is intriguing, aggravating and disheartening. Intriguing in learning something about those countries and extreme Islam and related history.

While the husband is captive, we learn of the wife's inane duties associated with reader's appeal of "Cosmopolitan" magazine, such as "What does a man's butt say about him," while she enlists private security companies, government agencies and high administrative officials for help in rescuing her husband.

It was disheartening to realize the extent of unnecessary waste of human, government and monetary sources in participating in rescuing someone who should know better as he had been captive in Bosnia, needed rescuing then and knew of the risks with the Taliban. Further, history given shows that the U.S. should not have engaged in Afghanistan because of numerous failures of other countries over centuries. So the book is valuable for understanding, and developing personal opinions about America's involvement in other nation's affairs while there is great need within our own country.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael Brochstein on November 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A riveting true story about the kidnapping in Afghanistan of a New York Times reporter. It is told in chapters that alternative in authorship between the kidnapped reporter and his wife back in NYC. In the course of the story we learn a lot about society in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the history of the area and the geo-political forces at work in the region.

Even though we know the ending of the story (the reporter is now free), the story is told in a quick paced, riveting page-turner manner that grabbed my attention and never let go.

Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cindy H. on July 10, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I knew about this book after reading an excerpt of it from Vogue magazine. I really enjoyed how the book tells you what happens with a kidnapping both from the victim's perspective and the family's. It makes you realize what kidnapping victims' families go through. I also appreciated the background information about what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and especially in the Pakistani tribal areas that the terrorists find as a safe haven, that I really, really wish our troops or the local government could just get in there and seriously put an end to all these terrorist acts. It makes me sick to my stomach that ten year old boys wish to become suicide bombers when they grow up, and at the same time my heart goes out for them because these children don't know any better; they don't know that there is a better life out there, more fun things for ten years old to play with or worry about.

I also liked that the book tells you about differing opinions about the issues, such as whether or not the local government actually support the Taliban, so it's not just merely the author's opinion. I am also glad to learn that our government, and the British, do not negotiate or pay ransom for kidnappings; even though it might be harder for the families to have to deal with, for which the government does provide aide and support, I think it's an important policy in order not to encourage even more kidnappings. I am also glad to find out that our government, unlike others, consuls and lets the family make the important decisions before they take any action that might involve the safety of the kidnap victim. I am thankful to know that our government respects and values our family values and rights. And I'm definitely thankful that we live in a place where we have freedom and our existence as human beings is highly valued.
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