As I’ve noted in previous posts, the book Alive by Piers Paul Read is among my favorites of all time, a book which chronicles the miraculous survival of an ill-fated rugby team following their plane crash in the Andes mountains. This follow-up, Miracle in the Andes, comes many years after the tragic triumph, and is authored by one of those very survivors, Nando Parrado. As such, Miracle offers a far richer, more personal look at the those seventy days upon the icy slopes from a ground-level perspective, rather than from the lofty bird’s-eye view we get from journalist Read.
Miracle is powerfully personal drama, dealing mostly with Parrado’s own internal struggles to cope with the loss of so many close friends, with the moral dilemmas that he and the other survivors faced, and with the emotional ups and downs of hope and terror which eventually culminated in their escape and rescue. The Alive tragedy was that generation’s own Endurance, and this book is a fitting tribute from one who actually lived it.
I found it interesting that Parrado struggled for so long to publish these memoirs, as if the stigma of what he had endured still lives on, even today. While I’m certain there was backlash from super-moralists as to what those survivors had done when all alone and dying in the frigid wilderness, I imagine that the majority of those familiar with the story supported their actions as necessary and acceptable under the circumstances. Still, I imagine it took intense courage for Parrado, a strong Catholic, a to publish this story and to share his details, though I am sure that it also reopened some old wounds that he would rather have left untouched.
Although I know this story very well from having read Alive a few times (and from having watched the movie, though that shouldn’t count), I did not feel as though Miracle simply rehashed the same-old, same-old. In fact, I found this second look strikingly necessary to the study as a whole, as it filled in the personal blanks left open by Alive. It gave lifeblood to what was virtually a documentary in book form, and therefore brought the “would I? could I?” parlor game into a definite internal debate. Parrado shows himself to be just your average family man, not unlike any of us, who was thrown into a circumstance that was virtually beyond some of his mates to handle. I saw it supremely as a humbling opportunity to get inside the mind of a survivor in order to see what he saw, feel what he felt, and struggle with what he struggled with.
Particularly wonderful about Parrado’s book is that he was one of the men who actually walked out of the Andes in search of rescue. Those chapters in Alive were by far the most exciting and inspiring—I can literally see in my mind right now a handful of cows grazing along the green banks of a river flowing with melted mountain snow—and to relive them through Parrado’s narration was like watching my favorite old home movies. I’d read both books again, just to get back to those scenes!
Miracle is a powerfully spiritual book (albeit from a Roman Catholic perspective), and it will definitely prove to be a soul-searching experience for anyone willing to read. Still, I’d recommend you not come to this book (or Alive) lightly. The material can be harsh and gritty, and some might not have the stomach for it.