Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors - Piers Paul Read In October of 1972 a plane carrying 45 passengers and crew crashed into a glacier in the Andes. Within a week there were only 27 left alive and the food was running out and soon hope of rescue was lost. To stay alive, those remaining had to resort to eating the bodies of the dead. Eventually two of their number climbed a mountain to reach civilization and rescue those left behind. That describes gruesome suffering, but somehow this account managed to be life-affirming. Maybe because, after all, this wasn't some random group of passengers. The plane was taking a team of Uruguay rugby players, their family and friends to an exhibition game in Chili. So teamwork, friendship, faith, courage--all are an important part of this story. To allow themselves to eat the body of their dead, some clung to their faith, even trying to see their taking nourishment from them as a form of communion--as a choice to live. Read writes with a restraint and sensitivity that doesn't allow you to read this and feel anything but admiration for the survivors. I was reminded of this book because I just read the account of Nando Parrado, one of the survivors, in Miracle in the Andes. It's a moving story in its own right--Parrado was one of the two men who climbed a mountain to bring help back. But even in the mind of Parrado and his co-author, it's Alive that was their touchstone. Parrado called Alive a "magnificent book" and said he had not tried to tell his own story for 30 years because he felt that book already covered "all the public needed to know." Rause, his co-author, in his acknowledgments admitted wondering if another book was necessary since Alive "told that story in such exhaustive detail, and with such definitive scope and power." I read Alive decades ago--it was assigned reading in high school, and it made an indelible impression. Even decades later, I remembered its details, and how much it moved me, vividly.