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Impossible Odds

Impossible Odds

The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan and Her Dramatic Rescue by SEAL Team Six

  • reading group guide
  • bestseller
A New York Times bestseller!

In 2006, twenty-seven-year-old Jessica Buchanan stepped off a plane in Nairobi, Kenya, with a teaching degree and long-held dreams of helping to educate African children. By 2009, she had met and married a native Swede named Erik Landemalm, who worked to coordinate humanitarian aid with authorities in Africa. Together the two moved from Nairobi to Somalia, and with hopes of starting a family, their future couldn’t have been brighter. . . .

But on October 25, 2011, Jessica and a colleague were kidnapped at gunpoint and held for ransom by a band of Somali pirates. For the next three months, Jessica was terrorized by more than two dozen gangsters, held outdoors in filthy conditions, and kept on a starvation diet while her health steadily deteriorated. Negotiations for ransom dragged on, and as the ordeal stretched into its third month, the captors grew increasingly impatient. Every terrifying moment Jessica Buchanan spent suffering in captivity was matched by that of her adoring husband working behind the scenes to deal with her captors. After ninety-three days of fruitless negotiations, and with Jessica’s medical state becoming a life-or-death issue, President Barack Obama ordered Navy SEAL Team Six to attempt a rescue operation. On January 25, 2012, just before the president delivered his State of the Union speech, the team of twenty-four SEALs, under the cover of darkness, attacked the heavily armed hostiles. They killed all nine with no harm to the hostages, who were quickly airlifted out on a military rescue helicopter.

In riveting detail, this book chronicles Jessica and Erik’s mutual journey during those torturous months. Together they relate the events prior to the kidnapping, the drama of Jessica’s fight to stay alive, and Erik’s efforts to bolster and support the hunt for her while he acted as liaison between their two families, the FBI, professional hostage negotiators, and the United States government. Both a testament to two people’s courage and a nail-biting look at a life-or-death struggle, this is a harrowing and deeply personal story about their triumph over impossible odds.
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  • Atria Books | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476725185 | 
  • August 2014
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Video

Jessica Buchanan on her Dramatic Rescue by SEAL Team Six

Humanitarian Jessica Buchanan tells the harrowing story of her dramatic rescue by Navy SEAL Team Six.

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Impossible Odds includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Jessica and Erik were in Somalia because of their commitment to the children and families tormented by the anarchy in the region. Did they deserve U.S. help?

2. Why have Somalia and its young men become infamous for kidnapping and piracy?

3. What was the principal source of economic opportunity for workers in Somalia PRIOR to the age of piracy? What happened to it?

4. Hypothetical: You are a young man in Somalia charged with supporting your family, which is something your religion will not allow the females to do. You can run away to the north to seek work, but that will leave your family unprotected. The fishing industry has been nearly decimated because inside the chaos of anarchy, ruling groups have managed to confiscate or destroy most of the private fishing boats; they want people to have to work for them. The local unauthorized "militia" leader lets it be known that if you will help hijack a ship or kidnap foreigners, you will be lent an AK-47 for the job, given food, and maybe even earn some portion of the rans see more

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About the Authors

Jessica Buchanan

Jessica Buchanan worked in the humanitarian aid field in Somalia. She has recently relocated to the United States, where she and her husband, Erik Landemalm, lecture on their experiences while raising their son, August, born in October, 2012.  

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Erik Landemalm

Erik Landemalm worked in the humanitarian aid field in Somalia. He has recently relocated to the United States, where he and his wife, Jessica Buchanan, lecture on their experiences while raising their son, August, born in October, 2012.  

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Anthony Flacco
Photograph courtesy of Anthony Flacco

Anthony Flacco

Anthony Flacco is the author of numerous nonfiction books and novels. He holds an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute, where he was honored with the Paramount Studios Fellowship Award and a Disney Studios Fellowship. He serves as an editor, frequently gives seminars on writing, and is an editorial consultant to Martin Literary Management in Seattle. 

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