Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff
Author: Mitchell Zuckoff
Genre: Historical Non-Fiction
Release Date: April 26th, 2011
Source: Copy provided by publisher for TLC Book Tours
Using diaries, letters, newspapers, declassified military documents, and many other sources, Mitchell Zuckoff explains what happened to the twenty-four men and women aboard the Gremlin Special, an Army Air Force plane intended to transport passengers on an aerial tour of uncharted parts of New Guinea. Almost at the end of World War II, this flight was intended to be a recreational trip to the remote area nicknamed "Shangri-La" in an attempt to see the lush jungle, remote villages, and natives' unusual lifestyle.
Unfortunately, the flight didn't go as planned, resulting in a spectacular crash killing most of those on board. Badly injured, the only three survivors, Margaret Hastings, John McCollom, and Kenneth Decker maintain hope of being rescued soon and decide to fight for their lives. In a courageous attempt at self preservation, these three must cross amazingly difficult terrain including harrowing rock climbs, sliding down waterfalls, and crawling through the thick and treacherous vines and brush covering the jungle floor. What follows is the intense adventure full of superstitious and potentially hostile natives, a group of paratroopers who risk their lives in a daring rescue attempt, and the trials and tribulations of the brave trio.
Hands down Zuckoff's writing makes Lost in Shangri-La. The readability, especially for non-fiction, was excellent, and I never felt overwhelmed or bored with the information presented. There is no doubt that this is one meticulously researched book, but the translation into a simple yet thrilling narrative is what kept me turning the pages. I also enjoyed the integration of anecdotes and historical facts within the narrative. This added a layer that helped me understand certain aspects surrounding the incident as well as kept the tension high. I just wanted to keep reading to see what was happening to the main trio!
So many parts of this narrative were engrossing. I loved reading a woman's perspective on being stranded around only men. The physical, emotional, and material needs are quite different. Seeing Margaret navigate such a difficult situation without any feminine products, much less female companionship, was interesting. Also, reading about the initial meetings between the village natives and the military as well as subsequent interactions appeased the part of me that is fascinated with social anthropology.
I can't think of a single group that couldn't find at least some part of the story intriguing. To put this in perspective, I not much of a non-fiction reader, so that cannot be used as an excuse. Besides, I'm not the only one who believes this book is a must-read. Lost in Shangri-La won the non-fiction category in the 2011 Indie Lit Awards. Okay, enough with the gushing. On to the commands - GO READ THIS BOOK!