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Mercer Island author's 'Impossible Odds' is no. 13 New York Times bestseller
When Jessica Buchanan sought out Martin Literary Management for assistance with writing her memoir, Anthony Flacco and his wife and partner, Sharlene Martin, provided a potential list of writers.
But after reviewing Flacco’s short version of how he would write the story, Buchanan and her husband, Erik Landemalm, made their choice.
While other writers planned to emphasize the Navy SEALs who rescued Buchanan out of the Somali desert, Flacco saw the arc of the story as a love story.
“The beautiful thing is that she was determined to have a family with her husband, Erik,” Flacco said. “That is what kept her alive; that thought.”
Before 32-year-old Buchanan was taken hostage by Somali gunmen, a group of pirates, she thought that she was pregnant. She was not, but “Impossible Odds: The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan and Her Dramatic Rescue by SEAL Team Six” is dedicated to the couple’s baby who was born after the harrowing ordeal. His name is August, and he is now 11 months old.
The book's inscription reads: “Before you even existed, you helped us survive the most trying time in our lives.”
Buchanan told her kidnappers that she was a mother.
"She knew the culture well enough to know a mother is much more valued," Flacco said. "You don't defile a mother."
Major news outlets and talk shows have carried Buchanan’s story. The book, co-authored by Flacco, Buchanan and Landemalm, ranked no. 13 on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list within a month of its publication, no. 6 on the e-book nonfiction bestseller list, and no. 7 in the Wall Street Journal.
Buchanan’s first TV appearance with “60 Minutes” was scheduled to re-air on CBS this weekend, but has been postponed for a special update on Syria. Buchanan and Landemalm were also guests on the "Today" show, NPR Radio, Fox News Channel with Sean Hannity, and "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno, among others. Flacco was present, off-camera.
“The reason this book is called ‘Impossible Odds’ is that this never should have worked,” said Flacco, who is the editorial consultant for Island-based Martin Literary Management.
Buchanan’s situation looked impossible. A humanitarian aid worker with the Danish Refugee Council, she was returning from training with her colleague, Poul Hagen Thisted, when their vehicle was hijacked by Somali terrorists carrying AK-47s.
For 93 days, the pair was held hostage in the desert. Their kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of $45 million.
Family, friends, prayer groups back home consistently prayed for Buchanan and her colleague.
On Jan. 25, 2012, Navy SEALs staged a nighttime raid upon President Obama's command — the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden. All nine kidnappers were killed, and Buchanan and her colleague were safely rescued. The president called Buchanan's father, John, with the news. Buchanan was later reunited with her family in Portland, Ore., her birthplace.
When Flacco finished the first draft of the book, Buchanan said that it didn’t sound scary enough.
“She wanted people to know the depth of her terror,” Flacco said. “We finally got it.”
Flacco spent hours interviewing Buchanan and Landemalm over Skype, nearly every night for two months. He had only four or five months to write the story, he said.
“If you’re doing it right, you have to feel the pain,” Flacco said. “You have to put yourself in the emotional place. I was having to live in the emotional place of those scenes.”
Buchanan grew up in rural Ohio and attended a Christian college in Pennsylvania. She had been working in Africa for five years, teaching English and educating children about how to avoid land mines.
“This book has freshened my awareness of the kind of courage and integrity that exists, that the popular media, in my opinion, would have you believe is gone,” said Flacco, who recently completed a movie script for the book.
“We have a lot of interest from studios, and it will be coming out soon,” he said.
Flacco has a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, and has published five nonfiction books and three historical novels. "Impossible Odds" is his first New York Times bestseller.
"The overall effect of this experience has been to renew the spiritual sense in my life," Buchanan wrote in the epilogue. "It was the months in captivity that brought me back to the same sentiment I saw my father express in the middle of his grief over losing Mom, 'God, I don't understand you, but I am choosing to trust you.'"
“Impossible Odds: The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan and Her Dramatic Rescue by SEAL Team Six” is available for purchase at Island Books and national booksellers.