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(From St. Anthony Messenger, February 1994)

By Terry A. Anderson, Crown Publishers, Inc. 356 pp. $25

Reviewed by Mark E. Rondeau...

Terry Anderson’s account of his nearly seven years as a hostage of terrorists in Lebanon tells several stories at once.

It’s the story of faith rediscovered, the story of love maintained through a long ordeal, and an international political drama, featuring both brutal fanatics and and the highest officials of the U.S. government.

Then the Middle East Bureau Chief for the Associated Press, Anderson on March 16, 1985, found himself being kidnapped by several armed men on a Beruit Street. He was dropping off a friend after a morning tennis match.

Using sharp, vivid prose, in the form of a present-tense diary, Anderson tells of his captivity, which continued until December 4, 1991.

During that time, his captors (Lebanese members of the radical group Islamic Jihad) keep him chained and blindfolded much of the time and move him frequently. Periods of isolation alternate with times he shares a cell with other hostages.

The empty hours and days of his captivity force Anderson, not instrospective by nature, to examine his past life and make an honest account of his sins and shortcomings. With the help of a fellow hostage, Father Lawrence Jenco, and a Bible provided by his captors, Anderson returns to the Catholic faith he had let lapse years before.

“Sometimes I feel a real joy in prayer,” he writes, “a real understanding of what it means to be loved by God as I am, as I know myself to be — faulted, proud, self-indulgent.

“Those times ease the pain of this existence so much, give me hope that I can not only stick this out, but perhaps emerge whole and live a better life when it’s over.”

Sometime before being taken hostage, Anderson had falled in love with a and become engaged to Madeline Bassil. who gave birth to their daughter, Sulome, during his first year in captivity. In chapters interspersed throughout the book, Madeline (who married Anderson in April 1993) recounts the ordeal from her perspective.

A Lebanese Maronite Catholic, Bassil at first finds herself feeling alienated from God after Anderson is taken hostage. As the years pile up, however, she moves closer to God and experiences divine help.

Den of Lions also provides a clear guide to the very complicated political and religious situation which plunged Lebanon into a bitter civil war in the 1980s. Anderson explains how senior U.S. government officials became enmeshed in the arms-for-hostages mess (including the diversion of funds from the arms sales to the Nicaraguan contras, rebels against that country’s Marxist government).

Anderson’s poems, written near the end of his captivity, provide another lens through which he makes sense of his years as a hostage. Placed throughout the book, many deal with religious themes. The poem “Faith” concludes, “Faith’s what you find/when you’re alone/and find that you’re not.”

Terry Anderson and his wife state in the book’s Preface that they intend no message or lesson “other than the events themselves relate.” The events related in Den of Lions show two people coping with a very difficult situation and opening up to God’s love in the process. Don’t miss this book.

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