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The Girl in the Treehouse: A Memoir

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Imagine … growing up in an unfinished geodesic dome home with no heat or running water, wearing the same clothes to school every day, and eating breakfast cereal with warm goat milk. In this whimsical, poetic, and gripping autobiographical account, Jennifer Asbenson describes her abusive, dysfunctional, and chaotic upbringing, her abduction and escape from a serial killer, Imagine … growing up in an unfinished geodesic dome home with no heat or running water, wearing the same clothes to school every day, and eating breakfast cereal with warm goat milk. In this whimsical, poetic, and gripping autobiographical account, Jennifer Asbenson describes her abusive, dysfunctional, and chaotic upbringing, her abduction and escape from a serial killer, her years in and out of mental hospitals, her decision to heal herself, and ultimately, her path to wholeness. Jennifer tells how, from her youngest years, she learned to retreat into her imagination to develop the ability to survive. The Girl in the Treehouse is a profoundly compelling story, told with humor, honesty, and without self-pity, of Jennifer’s emergence from mental illness and despair to happiness, through the power of forgiveness and self-love.


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Imagine … growing up in an unfinished geodesic dome home with no heat or running water, wearing the same clothes to school every day, and eating breakfast cereal with warm goat milk. In this whimsical, poetic, and gripping autobiographical account, Jennifer Asbenson describes her abusive, dysfunctional, and chaotic upbringing, her abduction and escape from a serial killer, Imagine … growing up in an unfinished geodesic dome home with no heat or running water, wearing the same clothes to school every day, and eating breakfast cereal with warm goat milk. In this whimsical, poetic, and gripping autobiographical account, Jennifer Asbenson describes her abusive, dysfunctional, and chaotic upbringing, her abduction and escape from a serial killer, her years in and out of mental hospitals, her decision to heal herself, and ultimately, her path to wholeness. Jennifer tells how, from her youngest years, she learned to retreat into her imagination to develop the ability to survive. The Girl in the Treehouse is a profoundly compelling story, told with humor, honesty, and without self-pity, of Jennifer’s emergence from mental illness and despair to happiness, through the power of forgiveness and self-love.

30 review for The Girl in the Treehouse: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    Having seen author Jennifer Asbenson a couple of times telling her amazing story on television on true crime or 48 Hours-type shows, I really wanted to read her book when I heard that she had written a memoir. Just watching the show stayed with me a long time afterward, enough that I’ve re-watched it when I’ve seen it on, which I rarely do. I wanted to hear the rest of her story, and that’s what her book gives you. The rest of it is nearly as shocking as what was in the tv show, to my surprise. Having seen author Jennifer Asbenson a couple of times telling her amazing story on television on true crime or 48 Hours-type shows, I really wanted to read her book when I heard that she had written a memoir. Just watching the show stayed with me a long time afterward, enough that I’ve re-watched it when I’ve seen it on, which I rarely do. I wanted to hear the rest of her story, and that’s what her book gives you. The rest of it is nearly as shocking as what was in the tv show, to my surprise. So it made for one of those books you just inhale from the time you start. I was “just going to read a bit, then go to bed” Sure. I stayed up until dawn reading every last page of it. So if you like true crime memoirs or stories of overcoming adversity, you might want to check this book out, especially if you are at all familiar with Jennifer’s story. She was the only surviving victim of Andrew Urdiales, the Chicago area serial killer. You will really be gobsmacked at all that this woman lived through, especially by the time she is finished sharing all of it. My BookZone blog: https://wordpress.com/post/bookblog20...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    We are all touched in varying ways. Products of the thought processes instilled in us at a very young age by the adults in our lives. It's hell when you do not have a choice. You learn to make do, cover and fantasize. Been there. Done that. Wore the t-shirt. Products of a twisted mind you say? It didn't really happen? A storyteller? Perhaps embellishment occurred. I don't really care, its not important. The fact that I know she lived it, I can feel it, empathize with it, and understand it. I know We are all touched in varying ways. Products of the thought processes instilled in us at a very young age by the adults in our lives. It's hell when you do not have a choice. You learn to make do, cover and fantasize. Been there. Done that. Wore the t-shirt. Products of a twisted mind you say? It didn't really happen? A storyteller? Perhaps embellishment occurred. I don't really care, its not important. The fact that I know she lived it, I can feel it, empathize with it, and understand it. I know therefore it is very much real. For the naysayers, step away. If you walked in our shoes back in the 70s, you get it. Times were different. I cannot understand the attack and what you went through so I cannot comment on what I do not know. I can feel however. It hurts my very soul that you suffered so very much. The attack itself and the aftermath. The blaming, misunderstanding, stupid non-believers. Lives could have been saved. Stupid, stupid, waste of time. When your safe place is a mental hospital, the suffering is real. So, you are touched more than the average Dear Author. Manic depressive. Bipolar. Chemical imbalance in the brain. It's a bitch, though manageable. Survivable. You are proof positive of that. When the writing got a little too weird shall we say I thought to myself she is either having a manic episode or smoked way too much weed. Either way for an author that's not really an author, I overlooked it. It's a life sparked by neglect, horror, humor and crazy. And still she breathes. Stay in that happy place Dear Author. Fight the fight. Don't let the demons overtake you. Keep moving forward. For yourself, your lovely daughter, friends and family. You are valued. You are loved. Oh, and for the man in the house. If you're still out there with a cup of coffee in the morning, good show ole' man, good show. *****+ stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    The Girl in the Treehouse will grab hold of your heart and take you on an intense journey of both sorrow and salvation. The author writes with a blunt, creative, and humorous approach. You will be shocked at the horrors she has endured. You will wonder, as I did, how much pain a human can survive in a lifetime. Yet, Jennifer Asbenson is a survivor. She discovers self-love ... the most powerful weapon of all. With this, Jennifer climbs out of the deepest kind of darkness and reclaims her life.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Donnie McDow

    i am 64-did not know i LOVED to read until i was 45 and i have read every night since. a book has to 'grab me' for me to read it and i've figured out my 'favorite authors' by now and i usually stick to them. i had heard about the author, Jennifer Asbenson on a few t.v. shows-she is the only survivor of serial killer-andrew urdiales who murdered 8 women. at the time-she was not believed and it affected her whole life after that to the point-she wasn't even sure it happened but SHE WAS SURE IT HAP i am 64-did not know i LOVED to read until i was 45 and i have read every night since. a book has to 'grab me' for me to read it and i've figured out my 'favorite authors' by now and i usually stick to them. i had heard about the author, Jennifer Asbenson on a few t.v. shows-she is the only survivor of serial killer-andrew urdiales who murdered 8 women. at the time-she was not believed and it affected her whole life after that to the point-she wasn't even sure it happened but SHE WAS SURE IT HAPPENED and this book was GOOD-i was told i was 'the first' one to read it-that felt 'very exciting' to me, that i was 'chosen' to read it in e-mail (have ordered an autographed copy) for when it 'finally' comes out-i wasn't sure about reading online-I HATE READING ONLINE-especially a book? but it was a sunday so i 'kicked back' here on my desktop and i read the entire book in one afternoon-i was 'hooked in' and it was better than i could have imagined-this girl is 'a writer'....what i loved is: there's hardly any 'blah-blah-blah' but just 'good reading'...i found her on f/b a while back and i feel like i 'kind of know her' in that way that we do when we are really interested in someone. i would recommend this book-HIGHLY.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Denise Mullins

    This was a disturbing and difficult book to get through. Clearly the author has an ongoing history of mental issues in addition to her self-professed chronic abuse of alcohol and drugs. This renders her reliability as a narrator dubious at best. Moreover, her frequent professions of fantasizing and imagining in stressful situations, coupled with contradictions and repetitions proved quite frustrating to me. It was impossible to feel empathy for the author since I did not believe what she was say This was a disturbing and difficult book to get through. Clearly the author has an ongoing history of mental issues in addition to her self-professed chronic abuse of alcohol and drugs. This renders her reliability as a narrator dubious at best. Moreover, her frequent professions of fantasizing and imagining in stressful situations, coupled with contradictions and repetitions proved quite frustrating to me. It was impossible to feel empathy for the author since I did not believe what she was saying. However, my biggest criticism rests with the publisher. In our contemporary culture, when tell-all memoirs involving abusers and victims are so popular, it seems pretty irresponsible to publish chaotic stream of consciousness journal ramblings from such a vulnerable individual in need of help. That constitutes the real abuse in my opinion.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Clifford Thurlow

    The Girl in Treehouse achieves that rare quality of being both moving and gripping at the same time, an accomplishment only possible when a writer has lived through the remarkable events they have brought to the page, suffered and survived neglect in childhood and then, the ultimate horror of being kidnapped and sexually abused by a serial-killer. That sounds like the brief description of the latest airport blockbuster. It is not. It is the true story of Jennifer Asbenson, who has written what Tr The Girl in Treehouse achieves that rare quality of being both moving and gripping at the same time, an accomplishment only possible when a writer has lived through the remarkable events they have brought to the page, suffered and survived neglect in childhood and then, the ultimate horror of being kidnapped and sexually abused by a serial-killer. That sounds like the brief description of the latest airport blockbuster. It is not. It is the true story of Jennifer Asbenson, who has written what Truman Capote called a ‘non-fiction novel’ – a memoir with the twists and turning points of a thriller that kept me gripped until the very last sentence. Then, as only happens with the best of books, I opened the cover and started again. I don’t feel this is the place for spoilers, but have been snatched and tortured, Jennifer Asbenson faced the worst possible indignity: not being believed. At this point, most people would have thrown in the towel, taken an overdose, ended it all. Indeed, the author was on the point of giving up. And that’s what makes The Girl in the Treehouse special - the fight back to claim her sanity and self-esteem is one of the most moving and best pieces of writing I have been fortunate enough to read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Hernandez

    I could not put this book down. Wow. I'm a little exhausted after reading this book in one sitting. It was like listening to Jennifer rattle off quickly a tale that shocks, horrifies, entertains and saddens me, but as I realize that I'm almost finished with it, I know that I'll miss her when I'm done. With a life such as hers, she has done the only positive thing she can do; she's dealt with it in her own unique way. She found beauty and light in a world that has destroyed lesser people. She foun I could not put this book down. Wow. I'm a little exhausted after reading this book in one sitting. It was like listening to Jennifer rattle off quickly a tale that shocks, horrifies, entertains and saddens me, but as I realize that I'm almost finished with it, I know that I'll miss her when I'm done. With a life such as hers, she has done the only positive thing she can do; she's dealt with it in her own unique way. She found beauty and light in a world that has destroyed lesser people. She found forgiveness in her heart for everyone who deserved forgiveness, and for some who did not, but for her sake, she forgave anyway. I feel oddly compelled to just hug her tight. I hope she finds more joy in her future than she has known up to now. She deserves to be joyful.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Raelene M Wharff

    I couldn't put this book down! I knew of Jennifer's story when I first moved to the high desert as her parents and Jason were members of our mining club. I saw on the local news that she was promoting her book. When I found it on Amazon in Kindle version I purchased it immediately. I have lots of books that I have purchased although this was the first one that once I started, I could not put this one down. I have recommended this to several friends. She is an inspiration that with the help of God I couldn't put this book down! I knew of Jennifer's story when I first moved to the high desert as her parents and Jason were members of our mining club. I saw on the local news that she was promoting her book. When I found it on Amazon in Kindle version I purchased it immediately. I have lots of books that I have purchased although this was the first one that once I started, I could not put this one down. I have recommended this to several friends. She is an inspiration that with the help of God you can survive anything. You have lots to be proud of,Jennifer!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Terry Milner

    Inspired from the moment I started reading I was unable to stop reading this book. Jennifer is a truly amazing human being. I believe she is the definition of strength and survival. She has given me a gift. I will share with others, and I will recommend reading her story to everyone I know. And it will be something I tell people about when they are struggling to have strength and hope.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melissa T

    I won this book on good reads first reads.....Thank You! This book is amazing. Jennifer has gone through so much and still comes out alive. Jennifer had an interesting upbringing and the things that happened to her when she was 19, I’m surprised she was able to overcome them. Everyone needs to read this memoir!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Young

    I saw Jennifer interviewed on the show ‘Inside Evil’ and I admired her strength and courage and just knew I had to read her book and I was not disappointed. Her raw honesty about her hardships in life was truly admirable. I couldn’t put this book down and I am so glad I read it and I highly recommend it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jubilee Macadangdang

    A must read! An ultimate book of triumph in the face of tragedy and heartbreak. Jennifer’s story is one of such transparency into some of the most horrendous instances of the human experience. Yet, she manages the path of her own life story with wit, grace and spirit.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jane Brewer

    I won this Kindle book through a Goodreads giveaway. Although I initially did not like the way the author began the story (it seemed rather abrupt), I really enjoyed hearing about her life. This is a memoir of a courageous woman who grew up in a rather avant-garde situation. He parents chose a life in the desert living in a geodesic home her father built. Sometimes there was electricity. Sometimes there was water. Sometimes there was a roof! Things seem pretty normal until her baby brother has a I won this Kindle book through a Goodreads giveaway. Although I initially did not like the way the author began the story (it seemed rather abrupt), I really enjoyed hearing about her life. This is a memoir of a courageous woman who grew up in a rather avant-garde situation. He parents chose a life in the desert living in a geodesic home her father built. Sometimes there was electricity. Sometimes there was water. Sometimes there was a roof! Things seem pretty normal until her baby brother has an allergic reaction to an inoculation. After this, everything changes for Jenny. Jenny tells extraordinary tales about her treatment as a child -- sometimes she is unseen; other times she is the focus of her mother's wrath. As she struggles to find her identity, make friends, and simply survive, you feel her angst and pain. A horrifying occurrence makes its way into her life when she is 19. Simply unbelievable. But once again, after a lot of therapy and medical assistance, she perseveres. I could not put this book down and read it in a day and a half. If you are seeking a memoir that is out of the ordinary, I highly recommend this.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Echo Duva-sprague

    Brave and Amazing I have to give Jennifer all the love and support in the world for sharing her story with us. Not just sharing it by writing it down, but by bringing us into her world and letters live and experience it with her. Although I could not possibly understand all of her feelings and of course did not actually have this physically happen to me, I could relate to some of it and she brought me in with her farther than any author has ever done before on her journey throughout her life. It Brave and Amazing I have to give Jennifer all the love and support in the world for sharing her story with us. Not just sharing it by writing it down, but by bringing us into her world and letters live and experience it with her. Although I could not possibly understand all of her feelings and of course did not actually have this physically happen to me, I could relate to some of it and she brought me in with her farther than any author has ever done before on her journey throughout her life. It was absolutely riveting from start to finish. Jennifer, I am so very grateful that you are here with us and we're able to find your way to tell your story as part of your healing process. There is no doubt in my mind that your memoir will help numerous others through traumas that they have had and may content struggle with to this day. Thank you for baring your heart and soul.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Denell C Petty

    Crushing Emotions When I saw the author on Dr. Phil, her story seemed incomplete. She told very mind jarring events, but Dr. Phil seemed to listen, but not really engage. I wondered why she was.on the show. After reading her story, I understand. Few people are strong enough to endure what she recognized as her life. In order to cope, she created pretend world's and imaginary surroundings to escape the harsh reality of her mentally ill mother who told everyone her daughter made things up. Her daugh Crushing Emotions When I saw the author on Dr. Phil, her story seemed incomplete. She told very mind jarring events, but Dr. Phil seemed to listen, but not really engage. I wondered why she was.on the show. After reading her story, I understand. Few people are strong enough to endure what she recognized as her life. In order to cope, she created pretend world's and imaginary surroundings to escape the harsh reality of her mentally ill mother who told everyone her daughter made things up. Her daughter had just escaped from a serial killer but because her mother made light of the story, others did too. After many mental hospital stays, suicide attempts, and a near fatal car accident, Jennifer chose an unused tree house to find her truth. The book is mesmerizing and should be taught in all psychology classes.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Judith Biss

    The girl out of the treehouse! I feel for the little girl who didn't know or receive love from her mother. I feel for the young lady who was almost murdered and no one believed her. And I feel for the woman who had to go through so much I just hope and pray she has a fulfilling life! The girl out of the treehouse! I feel for the little girl who didn't know or receive love from her mother. I feel for the young lady who was almost murdered and no one believed her. And I feel for the woman who had to go through so much I just hope and pray she has a fulfilling life!

  17. 5 out of 5

    mary kemp

    Could not put it down The story is compelling and well written. The author paints a story with her words. This was inspirational as well.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Weber

    Wow! What a strong women. Ms. Asbenson lived through so many horrific things. Yet, she writes with love in her heart. A really good memoir.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Must Read You will not be the same person after you read this book. It’s honest, (sometimes brutally so). It’s magical, and so worth reading!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Keira

    Another GREAT memoir! I actually really liked the writing style of this book, despite what some of the negative reviews say about it. It seems that the main criticisms of this book are that the writing is amateur-ish (to which I say, it's her first and only book. Written by a woman who dropped out of high school. What did you expect?), that the book is just ramblings of a woman that sounds mentally ill (she is mentally ill. She says it multiple times. And don't the ramblings make it more honest? Another GREAT memoir! I actually really liked the writing style of this book, despite what some of the negative reviews say about it. It seems that the main criticisms of this book are that the writing is amateur-ish (to which I say, it's her first and only book. Written by a woman who dropped out of high school. What did you expect?), that the book is just ramblings of a woman that sounds mentally ill (she is mentally ill. She says it multiple times. And don't the ramblings make it more honest? It's her thoughts. They're real. I appreciate that. And honestly, would you be in the place to write a perfectly coherent book after living the life that she lived?), and that she, as a person, is fundamentally unlikable, or was in the wrong. I have to completely disagree with that. From the very first chapter I really liked Jennifer, and as the story went on my heart broke over and over for her; how anyone could feel anything other than empathy and admiration for this woman, who faced the challenges she faced and came out stronger, is beyond me. I really recommend this book. It's a great memoir, and a wonderful way to gain a new perspective in life.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kivalina Mauck

    Wow Your so strong. Such a survivor . I really do not think I would have survived all you have. I have survived a violent rape . A on going molestation ( by a grandfather) from a very early age to 11 when I told on him and my parents only talked to him. He was never tried for nothing just told to stop. From then on I just avoided him. Your brothers vaccine injury , I am sad to hear he was one of these children. Your book is amazing . I am sure others will agree.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Helen O'Day

    Amazing story of recovery. Jennifer Asbenson is a survivor, of her childhood and of a kidnapping by a serial killer. In and out of mental institutions, her faith in herself is what saved her. Fascinating book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    jimtown

    First the good, the author is able to keep a positive outlook most of the time and seems to have grown up and removed herself from situations that cause grief. The sad parts are that, aside from her lonely childhood, this fails to evoke much sympathy. I suppose Jennifer was not given the tools she needed to live her life on her own. No matter how desperately she wanted to get out from under her parents geodesic roof, her parents were there for her when she needed them, allowing her to move back First the good, the author is able to keep a positive outlook most of the time and seems to have grown up and removed herself from situations that cause grief. The sad parts are that, aside from her lonely childhood, this fails to evoke much sympathy. I suppose Jennifer was not given the tools she needed to live her life on her own. No matter how desperately she wanted to get out from under her parents geodesic roof, her parents were there for her when she needed them, allowing her to move back home, giving her a car and going so far as to put a trailer on their property so she could live safely but independently. I feel like some of the decisions Jennifer made were what led to so many catastrophes happening in her young life. It's great she was a fighter and a survivor, but I don't think a person is truly strong until they live life without drinking, drugs and the marijuana that she used to cope. I found the book a little disappointing but give her credit for therapeutic writing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Sosa

    Need to read Must read. Great description of mental illness and courage. Good job, true storytelling. Touched my heart to learn about the authors childhood and her resilience. I would recommend this book. It’s awesome to read about a women’s courage and strength.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sadie

    This book will be hard to read for some. A very small portion of it is about her actual attack, but every aspect of the book was vital for Jennifer’s healing. So much love for you, Jennifer! You deserve the world after your upbringing and unfortunate life events.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    I loved this book, absolutely loved it. It was raw, it was honest and it was heartbreaking. I found the part about the serial killer unsettling but it was the incidences with her mother that resonated for me and I thought they were so telling in the way they were written. I can imagine the book was cathartic to write and I hope it's helped her move on from the obstacles she's had to face. She's a very strong lady. Definitely a book worth reading. I loved this book, absolutely loved it. It was raw, it was honest and it was heartbreaking. I found the part about the serial killer unsettling but it was the incidences with her mother that resonated for me and I thought they were so telling in the way they were written. I can imagine the book was cathartic to write and I hope it's helped her move on from the obstacles she's had to face. She's a very strong lady. Definitely a book worth reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    barbara

    a very sad but true story - heartbreaking

  28. 4 out of 5

    Krissy Lockwood

    Great book! An amazing journey. The author does an amazing job of pulling you in. Couldn’t put this one down. Give this book a try, you won’t be sorry.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Carson

    From the heart What a great read. Having experienced a similar childhood I found it difficult to start as it brought up so many emotions. I pushed through to find the authors full story compelling and healing. This authors is an amazing human being and has beautifully displayed in her story the ability and power of self love

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    She had more heartache than just escaping a killer I am so sad for her painful, insecure life. She has a sad story to tell but she has a happy ending. She certainly made me feel her pain and want to hug her troubles away. God bless you, Jennifer. You are very brave to tell your story.

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