I recently read the book, Alive, the true story of a plane crash in the Andes Mountains. I would not have picked this book to read. Arlene, one of my book club members, selected it for her turn to host book club.
My preconceived ideas about the book were foreboding. Unless someone had been living under a rock in October 1972, they had heard the gory details about the aftermath of the crash on television or in the newspaper. I thought, “I don’t really want to read this book.”
Nevertheless, in fairness to Arlene, I gingerly picked it up and began to read. I could not put the book down. The story of this amateur rugby team and some of their family members crashing on a mountainside in the Andes was compelling:
“The scene was one of the utmost desolation. All around them was snow and beyond, on three sides, the sheer gray walls of the mountains. The plane had come to a halt on a slight tilt, facing down the valley where the mountains were much farther away and now partly obscured by gray clouds. It was bitterly cold, and many of the boys were in their shirt sleeves. Some wore sports coats and others blazers. None was dressed for subzero temperatures, and few suitcases could be seen which might provide extra clothes.”
The belief that rescue planes would arrive within hours to a couple of days faded when weeks passed and no one came. Rescue planes, grounded due to inclement weather conditions, sat on tarmacs waiting. When it was okay to fly, searchers were unable to locate the crash site.
Stranded on the mountain for ten days, their food supply dwindling, all twenty-seven survivors looked at one another in a meeting. They “discussed the issue which faced them—whether or not they should eat the bodies of the dead to survive.”
History tells us what their decision was.
“Ten weeks later a Chilean peasant tending his cattle in a remote valley deep in the Andes saw, on the far side of a mountain torrent, the figures of two men.”
I could not put this book down. As I read the details of how they cut away the flesh of corpses, and “toasted” it atop the plane, sizzling hot from the sun bearing down on the metal fuselage, I turned the pages quickly in awe of their courage and faith.
The message of this book is clear.
Written on a blank page following the introduction to the book:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” —John 15:13