Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lost in Shangri-La [Review]

384 Pages [Hardcover]
Published 26 April 2011
ISBN: 0061988340
Find on Goodreads

On May 13, 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip over "Shangri-La," a beautiful and mysterious valley deep within the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea. Unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton's bestselling novel Lost Horizon, this Shangri-La was home to spear-carrying tribesmen, warriors rumored to be cannibals.

But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed. Miraculously, three passengers pulled through. Margaret Hastings, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend's shoes. John McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the plane, masked his grief with stoicism. Kenneth Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a gaping head wound.

Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to the hidden dangers of the jungle, the trio faced certain death unless they left the crash site. Caught between man-eating headhunters and enemy Japanese, the wounded passengers endured a harrowing hike down the mountainside--a journey into the unknown that would lead them straight into a primitive tribe of superstitious natives who had never before seen a white man--or woman.

Drawn from interviews, declassified U.S. Army documents, personal photos and mementos, a survivor's diary, a rescuer's journal, and original film footage, Lost in Shangri-La recounts this incredible true-life adventure for the first time. Mitchell Zuckoff reveals how the determined trio--dehydrated, sick, and in pain--traversed the dense jungle to find help; how a brave band of paratroopers risked their own lives to save the survivors; and how a cowboy colonel attempted a previously untested rescue mission to get them out.

By trekking into the New Guinea jungle, visiting remote villages, and rediscovering the crash site, Zuckoff also captures the contemporary natives' remembrances of the long-ago day when strange creatures fell from the sky. A riveting work of narrative nonfiction that vividly brings to life an odyssey at times terrifying, enlightening, and comic, Lost in Shangri-La is a thrill ride from beginning to end.

My Thoughts:
I have never been able to really grasp any recent American history (or really recent world history). I was taking a huge risk by picking up a nonfiction historical novel. However, this book was very well written. It never got boring. It presented the factual events and pasts of the real life characters in a very easy-to-read-and-remember fashion. There was also a lot of background history and cultural history that I soaked up too. There are countless pictures throughout the book and it's fascinating to see the actual events happening.

Lost in Shangri-La tells the story of three survivors of a sight-seeing flight up the coast of New Guinea (where they were stationed during WWII) on 13 May 1945. The plane crashed into an unknown territory with many unknown natives who were at constant war between tribes and villages - not for personal gain or revenge - just for the sake of being at war. Some of the natives were known headhunters and cannibals and the very few who had seen a white man before were not fond because one had shot a native. These natives were still in the stone age.

Even if you are not a fan of history, this is still a very fascinating and readable book. Extraordinary tale - Margaret Hastings (the WAC and only female survivor of the crash) is one of the coolest women in history.

Previous Review:
Entangled by Nikki Jefford [here]

[Counts toward my TBR Pile challenge: here]

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1 comment:

Lone Wanderer said...

Thank you for the review!