I’ve been reading a lot of heavy books recently. Over the weekend I read Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me. If you know her, you’d know that this is her first crime book she’d ever written. In The Stranger Beside Me, Rule talks about the crimes of Ted Bundy, a man who killed over 36 women over a course of a decade or more. I say over 36 because he’d admitted to that many women, but it’s possible that he killed more than that. What makes this book more interesting and even a little eerie is the fact that Rule worked at a crisis center helping people who are suicidal or dealing with other horrific events and Ted Bundy had volunteered alongside her. During the two years that she worked with him, Rule never suspected him of being anything other than an exemplary citizen who wanted to do everything in his power to improve the world he lived in. Little did she know that he was killing innocent women in the meantime.
I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed The Stranger Beside Me because who can enjoy a book about a serial killer, but I thought reading about how a person like Bundy thought and acted and in this way maybe have sharper eyes for those that could be walking by me daily. Like Rule, I don’t think I would have been able to reconcile the man that I thought I knew with the man who actually was. How can you see the serial killer in the man that had always been a perfect gentleman to you? This is why serial killers are scary because they can make you see one side of them while coming out at night with as someone completely different, a complete monster.
I also finished up another book from a victim’s point of view, only a victim in a whole different set of circumstances. Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian born Muslim. Throughout her adult life, Ebadi had served as a judge and worked as a human rights lawyer in Iran after the Islamic revolution. When she stepped down from her judgeship after the laws were becoming too hard to bear, she continued her work as a lawyer defending those who were wrongly imprisoned under the regime because of their religious, political, gender or artistic differences. In 2004 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and became the first Muslim woman to win it.
Ever since then, however, Ebadi has faced many hardships. The government became increasingly antagonistic towards her and her work, including pitting her family against her in an effort to make her stop work her stop her human rights activism. Of course she didn’t and eventually she made herself an exile in order to protect herself from a dangerous government. This is a hard book to read, especially given with what the Iranian government is continuing to do in the 21st century. At times the author seems a bit distant, like she’s telling the events from an outsider’s perspective but I think it might be necessary considering how much she had gone through in order to help those in oppression. If you want to know more about what Iran has been like in the last ten years or so, I’d recommend Ebadi’s book Until We Are Free. It’s a great perspective of modern day Iran that very few of us get to see or hear about.