5 stars. Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home is a powerful, gripping personal account by Nando Parrado of the 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. Carrying rugby players, friends, and family members to a match in Chile, the plane was forced to deviate due to weather from its planned route, and inadvertently flew into a mountain peak. The survivors were faced with desperate conditions, ranging from altitude to weather to avalanche, and were forced to resort to cannibalism for food. Parrado and two others crossed the crest of the Andes to find help. Of the 45 passengers of the flight, 16 survived the crash and the mountains.
The survivors’ story is a breathless, page-turning read. The harsh environment of the Andes presents challenge after challenge to the crash survivors. Only through ingenuity and reliance on each other are they able to survive. Even knowing the outcome, the events kept my nose in the book from start to finish.
Parrado’s narrative is intense and moving. Moments of heroism, selflessness, and friendship are punctuated by sorrow, desperation, and helplessness, and the author’s story conveys the raw emotions he felt throughout the ordeal. We feel for him as he comforts his dying sister, tremble as he clings to high mountain passes, and exult as he finally finds help. The burden of the decision to stay alive by consuming the flesh of their dead friends is especially heartbreaking and compelling.
Part of what makes Miracle in the Andes have so much impact is that Parrado’s writing is straightforward and factual. He tells his story with humility and gratitude, neither glossing over nor playing up the peril or heroism. As he discusses his life after the crash, he is never maudlin; I got the idea that here is a man who is simply thankful for every day.
A lengthy section of pictures is a tremendous addition to the book. Maps of the crash scene and Parrado’s route to find help are clear and add greatly to the text.
Miracle in the Andes is a true-life survival drama that runs the gamut of human experience. Nando Parrado is a talented author with a unique perspective on the events of the crash, and his story and personality make for great reading.