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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lost in Shangri-La--a book review

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War IILost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Off for a pleasure ride over some of the most exotic scenery in the world and some of its exotic residents three service people, two soldiers and a WAC find themselves the only survivors of a tragic plane crash in a rain forest with no way out among possible headhunting cannibals. 1945 New Guinea. A place that had only been seen from the air, so it was thought. The story of their initial days trying to reach a place where THEY could be seen and where they would be safe from the natives is heart rending. Two of them are seriously injured with gangrene rapidly setting in; the third, though physically sound and in command, keeping his deep grief at the loss of his twin brother under control.

Once seen the efforts of their colleagues to supply them with food and shelter is only surpassed by the efforts of a handsome paratrooper and his Filipino recon team to physically reach them and provide them medical treatment and a way out of the jungle.

The story has everything--tragedy, comedy, a touch of possible romance, bravery, derring-do, intercultural understanding without words, suspense and eventual success. I read it in one day and though the events took place when I was a 2 1/2 year old toddler in New York City, the people caught up in this newsmaking event were as real as though it were being reported on contemporary nightly news. Each one comes off the page as a living three demensional human being and as a reader I worried about the outcome, though the actual players are, for the most part, now dead.

The pictures throughout the book enhance that sense of knowing the characters and making them real. The use of their own words, through diary and interview, brings even more depth to their personalities.

The story of this event and the strengths and weaknesses of the people who found themselves in it compares favorably with Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, stories of the Donner Party and those of the soccer players stranded in the Andes. Nice, too, is the follow up to the lives of each of them once the drama had passed.

Just a great read! I wish, now, that I'd gone to the glider museum in Lubbock, Texas--next time.

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