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Eduardo Strauch Urioste was a passenger on the infamous plane that crashed in the Andes mountains in 1972. Rescuers couldn’t even locate the plane, much less the survivors. For 72 days, the people who survived the initial crash lived on snow, the few supplies they could salvage from the plane, and cannibalism. Strauch reflects on his time on the mountain and the ways it shaped his life afterward, strengthened his faith, and bonded him to the other passengers in unbreakable ways.
I didn’t know much about this event other than the bare minimum prior to reading this book: a plane crashed in South America in the ’70s; the passengers survived by cannibalism; and the movie Alive, which I haven’t seen, is based on it. So I expected to get more of a straightforward recounting of the facts. What I got was a much more spiritual reflection. Had I known that, I might have rated this a bit higher, but since I expected a survival story and got something more contemplative, I had a hard time settling into the proper frame of mind for enjoying this book for exactly what it was.
Strauch shares his story with the utmost respect and love for his fellow survivors and those who were lost in the crash and in the 72 agonizing days afterward. He honors those whose bodies allowed him and the others to survive. He was wounded pretty badly in the crash so his ability to help with foraging for supplies and setting up shelter was limited. He’s thankful to those who were physically able to do more and who had more knowledge to share. They willingly gave everything they could to the group to ensure as many people survived as possible. His love for them shone from the pages.
The story of the crash and survival was interesting to me. But that all wrapped up rather quickly and the author spent a great deal of time on a sort of spiritual mysticism that grew among the survivors and their families. Mothers knew in their hearts whether their sons were dead or alive. Other inexplicable knowledge and fantastic coincidences that I’ve largely forgotten were detailed. Other readers will enjoy these sorts of contemplations more than I do but this part started to drag a lot for me. I am a person of faith but I consider faith to be a largely personal matter; this very public exploration and explanation started to lose me. I appreciate that a harrowing experience like this would either strengthen your faith or break it and I’m glad that Mr. Strauch became spiritually stronger. I just didn’t personally gain much by reading about it. Others will disagree.
Ultimately, the author seems to have made his peace with the mountain and to be grateful for the ways that it shaped his life afterwards. He revisits the site regularly and feels a kind of peace there that he doesn’t find anywhere else, at that place where he was perhaps closer to God than he ever will be again until his death. The heart and mind that can take such a horrific event and emerge with that sort of serenity is special indeed.
I do recommend this for readers who enjoy reading about spiritual matters more than I do. I’m glad that the author has found such a healthy way to live with the event that forever shaped his life. That sort of reflection isn’t to my personal taste but others will find comfort in it.
I downloaded this for free as part of Amazon’s monthly First Reads program for Prime members (I am NOT an Amazon affiliate).
If you liked Out of the Silence: After the Crash, you might also like my reviews of
- Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
- Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
- Night by Elie Wiesel
Buy Out of the Silence: After the Crash from Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC.
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site.