Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Editors: Editors of Reader’s Digest
Publisher: Reader’s Digest
The adventure stories in this collection, although all previously having been published in the Reader’s Digest magazine itself, remain as fresh and gripping as they were on their first day of print. For decades, Reader’s Digest has narrated tales that transcend human anxieties and fears, showing how we nearly all, when we are pushed to the very limits of our endurance, are, nevertheless, somehow able to rally ourselves to overcome the odds that sometimes seem to be overwhelmingly stacked against us. All of the tales in Alive!: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Survived Deadly Tornadoes, Avalanches, Shipwrecks and More originally formed part of the regular column entitled “Drama in Real Life” during the last two decades, with most of them coming from the 21st century. However, as is stressed in the introduction to this fine volume of intrepid amateur exploration and outward bound activity, which is set, more often than not, in the wilderness, or at sea, although sometimes in the apparent sanctity and security of the protagonists’ own homes, these tales are, essentially, “timeless.”
What makes these stories a great deal more than just simply anecdotes is the nature of the combatants themselves. The individuals who people these tales, and with whom we become familiar on first name basis, can, at times, be seen to be at harmony with elements in the wild that serve to attract them into situations where their very lives are often imperilled. When not vying against primeval forces of tempest and environmental mayhem, such as typhoons and hurricanes, they can be seen savouring the beauties and wonders of this double-edged nature. For instance, the noble mustangs that Tom and Tabitha Garner search after for spiritual solace in “Into the Wild” are felt almost to empathize with the couple when they are marooned by howling blizzards: “The blizzard was petering out, and a crowd of mustangs peered at the truck through the trees. ‘Look, Tom,’ Tamitha whispered. “Our guardian angels.’”
The objective and thoughtful recounting of these stories of human endeavour is balanced by the insights that the tales provide into the inner workings of the human mind under stress. With the circumstances in which the various characters find themselves being contextualized in such a way that readers are easily able to relate to them, even if they have not personally encountered such situations themselves, when it comes to moments of high drama, the perspective is presented from the eye-view of the proponents of action themselves. Once the crisis is over, the aftermath is then once more narrated from a more objective standpoint. This alternate narrowing and broadening of focus helps to make the accounts not only highly readable and exciting, but also capable of conveying a deeper message than might otherwise be possible. Many a budding journalist out there might well take note of this tried and true technique, in order to improve their own stylistic rendering of similar situations.
Alive!: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Survived Deadly Tornadoes, Avalanches, Shipwrecks and More should prove to be a worthwhile addition to any home, school or school library. It comes thoroughly recommended for all ages and all audiences, as, naturally, does the Reader’s Digest magazine itself.