I started this audiobook, Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, while I was waiting for the library to get the next book from the Century Trilogy in on CD because it was a free download and sounded vaguely familiar. It turned out to be really good, way more interesting than I expected.
“Fear is something I don’t think you experience unless you have a choice. If you have a choice, then you’re liable to be afraid. But without a choice, what is there to be afraid of? You just go along doing what has to be done.”
In 1945, a sightseeing plane that took off from an American military base in Dutch New Guinea crashed into an unexplored valley which the Americans had dubbed “Shangri-La”. Three people survived the crash, all wounded to some degree, and miles from their base. Between them and home stood thick jungles full of what they believed to be headhunters and cannibals, as well as enemy Japanese. Meanwhile, a rescue mission has to be put together to save three wounded people from a place where no plane can land and no boat can go.
Lost in Shangri-la was well-written, meticulously written and fascinating to read. Zuckoff tracked down survivors, people who were at the base at the time, natives who were alive at the time, diaries, journals, etc. As he introduces new characters, or new concepts (the tribe, the airplane, the base, etc), he devotes a chapter to explaining each thing in detail. Not a bit of it was boring or dragged in any way.
What I found fascinating about the survivors’ story is the timing. Usually, when reading a book or watching a movie about a plane crash like this, you expect the disaster, the trek to safety, then once the survivors are spotted, the plane or whatever takes them on home. In this instance, the survivors are spotted relatively quickly. The question the becomes: how do we get them out, and how do we keep them alive until that point?
A wonderful story, full of bravery and the power of human spirit and all that good stuff. How has this not been turned into a film yet?