The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast

The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast Review

Michael Scott Moore, a journalist and the author of Sweetness and Blood, incorporates personal narrative and rigorous investigative journalism in this profound and revelatory memoir of his three-year captivity by Somali pirates—a riveting,thoughtful, and emotionally resonant exploration of foreign policy, religious extremism, and the costs of survival.

In January 2012, having covered a Somali pirate trial in Hamburg for Spiegel Online International—and funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting—Michael Scott Moore traveled to the Horn of Africa to write about piracy and ways to end it. In a terrible twist of fate, Moore himself was kidnapped and subsequently held captive by Somali pirates. Subjected to conditions that break even the strongest spirits—physical injury, starvation, isolation, terror—Moore’s survival is a testament to his indomitable strength of mind. In September 2014, after 977 days, he walked free when his ransom was put together by the help of several US and German institutions, friends, colleagues, and his strong-willed mother. 

Yet Moore’s own struggle is only part of the story: The Desert and the Sea falls at the intersection of reportage, memoir, and history. Caught between Muslim pirates, the looming threat of Al-Shabaab, and the rise of ISIS, Moore observes the worlds that surrounded him—the economics and history of piracy; the effects of post-colonialism; the politics of hostage negotiation and ransom; while also conjuring the various faces of Islam—and places his ordeal in the context of the larger political and historical issues.           

A sort of Catch-22 meets Black Hawk Down, The Desert and the Sea is written with dark humor, candor, and a journalist’s clinical distance and eye for detail. Moore offers an intimate and otherwise inaccessible view of life as we cannot fathom it, brilliantly weaving his own experience as a hostage with the social, economic, religious, and political factors creating it. The Desert and the Sea is wildly compelling and a book that will take its place next to titles like Den of Lions and Even Silence Has an End.

Title:The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast

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    Some Testimonial About This Book:

  • Jean

    This is a fascinating story about the three years of Moore’s captivity by Somali pirates. Moore is a journalist and a gifted storyteller. Moore used his journalist tools of observation, interviewing...

  • Sara

    I am amazed that a 450 page book about almost three years of captivity was so engrossing. I didn't realize how good a job Moore had done evoking what his captivity was like until the end of the book w...

  • Mel

    My husband read this and afterward said "read it". And I am glad I did, Michael Scott Moore has written an incredible story about a horrific situation. The way he humanizes his cruel, but ridiculous S...

  • Ellen

    What a great read! Combine a gripping story and a good writer and you have a winner. A thrilling tale of kidnapping and survival under the harshest of conditions. ...

  • Renée

    Michael Scott Moore's "The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast" is phenomenal. It is an incredible book of memoir and reportage, personal experience and historical context....

  • Corinne

    Surprisingly boring...

  • Cindy Vallar

    As a reporter for Spiegel Online, Michael Moore covered a piracy trial – the first held in Germany in over four hundred years. What he learned piqued his curiosity to know more about Somali pirates,...

  • Lily

    It is hard to believe that Michael Moore actually survived his harrowing ordeal of captivity by the Somalis. He asked himself early on (and many times during captivity) what he was thinking by going ...

  • Ashley

    A harrowing story for sure. Read this one for book club and found it interesting. But it also tended to drag a bit (I mean the dude was hostage for over 2 years, so yeah some of it's kind of boring......

  • David Hill

    Moore traveled to Somalia to research a book about the pirates there. He got more than he bargained for. You have made a mistake. Mistakes are human. He is told this by one of his captors, early on, a...