What happens when one harrowing incident changes your life, splitting it between before and after?
On the fourth day of what Lara Naughton thought would be two weeks of bliss in Belize, she was kidnapped and assaulted by a man pretending to be a cabdriver. Held in the depths of the tropical forestalone with the jaguar manshe found that compassion was her only defense.
Lara’s survival and journey of healing is poignant, compelling, and exceptional. Bending the limits of reality, she uses myth to process her experience. As Lara seeks a new understanding of herself, her lyrical, haunting prose reveals a belief that there is room for compassionfor self and and otherseven in the midst of violence.
Lara Naughton is an author and documentary playwright. Her work includes Never Fight a Shark in the Water: The Wrongful Conviction of Gregory Bright. She is a certified Compassion Cultivation Trainer through The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University School of Medicine. She lives and teaches in New Orleans.
Library JournalJune 16, 2016
Naughton, Lara. The Jaguar Man. Central Recovery. Jul. 2016. 176p. ISBN 9781942094203. pap. $15.95. MEMOIR
Documentary playwright and certified compassion cultivation trainer (Ctr. for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Stanford Univ. Sch. of Medicine) Naughton is also an experienced global traveler who enjoys solo adventures. While in Belize, she unwinds in balmy temperatures and meets a younger man who just may be The One. In Los Angeles, she recently purchased a bungalow in need of extensive repair, a symbol perhaps of her own life, which will soon be splintered. When a man impersonating a taxi driver abducts and rapes her, Naughton reaches deep into her inner resources to survive. Her creative use of myth as a means to navigate the psychological damage also helps readers traverse this difficult topic. She discovers a measure of compassion for her captor, even as she struggles to make sense of the senseless. This is an exploration of the multifaceted damage of this violent crime that may leave readers feeling both humble and raw. VERDICT In her first book, Naughton delivers a powerful and disturbing message to both men and women on the trauma of rape.—Gloria Drake, Oswego P.L. Dist., IL
May 30, 2016
The Jaguar Man: A Memoir
Lara Naughton. Central Recovery Press (CBSD, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-942094-20-3
"Recounting how the fourth day of a two-week vacation turned into a nightmare, Naughton (Never Fight a Shark in Open Water) takes readers on a journey through hallucination, horror, and compassion. Naughton, an experienced traveler, is in Belize hoping to start a relationship with a local man she met there on a previous trip. On her way to see him, she carelessly enters an unmarked car that the driver claims is a taxi. The innocuous sound of a door clicking shut becomes a memory she revisits for years while struggling to recover from her subsequent abduction and rape by the knife-wielding driver—the “jaguar man.” That ordeal is recounted as a mixture of imagined and remembered moments that suggest Naughton turning her consciousness off and on. When her abductor releases her the following morning, Naughton is numb and in denial over the depth of her trauma. Once back home in California, she begins the long process of recovery. Her ability to feel compassion for her abductor—who was never captured—is part of what makes her story both excruciating and extraordinary. This is a brief but riveting look at a devastating experience and the resilience Naughton summons as her ultimate response." Agent: Rayhané Sanders, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (July)
May 1, 2016
THE JAGUAR MAN
Author: Lara Naughton
"A writer and teacher chronicles her terrifying experience with kidnapping and rape and how she survived the ensuing trauma. Naughton's first trip to Belize dazzled her. Not only did she fall in love with the country's natural beauty, but also with a handsome native. Knowing she would go back, she prayed that God would send her "an experience of love so big, [she would] have to change [her] life to comprehend it." That wish became reality but not in the way Naughton could have imagined. When she did not find her lover at the shop where he worked, she took a cab back to her beachside cabana. Naughton began to realize that all was not as it seemed when the driver told her that he had to find change for her cab fare. The next thing she knew, he was holding a knife to her chin and telling her he wanted all her money. For the next day and a half, Naughton was the prisoner of a troubled man who threatened her while revealing his own deep emotional wounds. Naughton began to steel herself for "X"—that is, the rape she knew was inevitable. Yet rather than hate the driver—whom she called "the jaguar man"—she found her heart opening to him. She writes that the love she felt was "particular to him, jaguar love, love of survival, miracle love, love born in snarls, love with teeth." She did not report the incident to local authorities; instead, she chose to focus on her own healing. Her path eventually led her to a progressive church minister who helped her come to a profound spiritual revelation about the true nature of love and human connection. Naughton's book is brief, but the power of its message to survivors of sexual assault about finding peace through compassion is undeniable. A painful, provocative, and poetically cathartic memoir of survival."
“This is a marvelous book, written with the deft hand of a journalist and told with the grip of an old-fashioned storyteller. The magic of this book is not so much that Lara Naughton had to reach deep into a cauldron of wit and courage to survive an ordeal from a vicious, twisted villain, but rather that her redemption created a new level of understanding and wisdom that she embraced, so that she might live long enough to share this wisdom with others. That is why we read books. And that is why this is an excellent one.”—James McBride, National Book Award-winning author of the The Good Lord Bird and The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
“The Jaguar Man does the seemingly impossible—weave a beautiful tale out of a horrific experience. Lara Naughton inspires and uplifts even as she shares difficult truths. This book will encourage you to reimagine—and believe in—your own capacity for compassion, courage, and resilience.”—Kelly McGonigal, PhD, bestselling author of The Upside of Stress and The Willpower Instinct
“Lara Naughton has rewritten the survivor narrative into a radical poetics that challenges all of our ideas about sexual and spiritual trauma. At the heart of this story is a kidnapping and violence against the body and spirit of a woman deep in the Belize tropics. But her journey is not into the heart of darkness. The darkness is rewritten as a kind of portal, and language is reinvented as the mode by which we can reinvent ourselves, even in the face of brutality. Like Roxane Gay’s novel An Untamed State, we are given the story of violence unflinchingly, and yet beauty still rises like a hymn to the body, bringing the soul back home.”—Lidia Yuknavitch, bestselling author of The Small Backs of Children and The Chronology of Water
“What a privilege it has been for me to be part of Lara’s journey. And to now see her harrowing experience transmuted into a sojourn of healing and love described so vulnerably, so sublimely in this book, I can only describe The Jaguar Man and its author as a blessing to the world.”—Michael Bernard Beckwith, author of Spiritual Liberation
“The Jaguar Man is less a story than a slap; an intensely lyrical expression of darkness, of pain, of an ugly act of violence that becomes transformational. Inspiring and written in spare, completely original, painfully honest, magical, hammering prose, this book is not to be missed.”—Mark Bowden, international bestselling author of Black Hawk Down, Guests of the Ayatollah, The Finish, and Killing Pablo
“The Jaguar Man is a highly compelling and vulnerable story of survival, heartbreak, triumph and hope. Poignantly written, Lara Naughton shines a very bright light on what it means to live with compassion, courage and heart.”—Chris Grosso, author of Indie Spiritualist and Everything Mind
“The Jaguar Man offers a profound and personal exploration of the impact of violent crime on survivors, their families and communities. Naughton offers a perspective of pain, hope, healing and redemption that is a ‘must read’ for anyone who has endured trauma or loss.”—Anne Seymour, National Crime Victim Advocate, Washington DC
“Revelatory in its wisdom, startling in its beauty, The Jaguar Man is an empowering reminder that—however daunting the path might seem—we are our own best healers. A truly vital read.—Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of Mexican Enough: My Life between the Borderlines