Jul. 15th, 2010

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And I Alone SurvivedAnd I Alone Survived by Lauren Elder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! What a story!

We know the ending - from the title - but along the way the reader can only gasp at the fortitude of this woman, clad in light clothing, heels and no underpants, making a journey that experienced hikers and climbers would think twice about.

While shocked, injured, freezing cold and disoriented. She had a broken arm and a deep leg wound, among other injuries, but still she managed to make it out alive from one of the highest, most inaccessible of California's mountains, where the light plane in which she was a passenger crashed in turbulence.

Cleverly told, with "cutaways" to relatives and searchers, the story is incredible, and inspirational. How many of us, i wonder, would react in exactly the right way to survive such a calamity? She made the most of her limited resources, used common sense to make decisions, and endured what had to be endured, going from a comfortable Oakland home to a howling wilderness in an hour or two - and then out again on foot in a far longer time. Bleeding, shredded, aching and frostbitten feet.

How little separates us from disaster. In this case, a mere five metres higher and the plane would have crossed the ridgeline unharmed, those inside whooping with the thrill and the view. And then, life was on a razor's edge, with death from exposure or falling moments or millimetres away.

Until she found help, in one of the more surreal moments of the book.

I was glued to the pages.

Not a great literary effort, to be sure, but what a story! The crafting of the narrative echoes the practical, level-headed qualities of the woman who tells it. This is deathless prose, in a different and more literal sense.

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