Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Book Review: 'Deep Down Dark' by Héctor Tobar

✰✰✰✰½ When the San José Mine collapsed in Chile in 2010, 1.2 billion people watched the rescue on television. Never before had anyone survived such a long time underground...69 days. How did the miners survive? What happened during their time in the caverns And how did they adjust to life back above ground?

It’s been more than seven years since the thirty-three men were trapped. Their plight captivated the world. For seventeen days no one even new if they were alive or dead. With meager resources, somehow all of the miners survived.  Tobar's narrative moves between the stories of the men trapped beneath thousands of feet of rock to the political battles above ground.

While the miners struggled to make their limited rations last, their families fought to keep the rescue mission alive. Harsh conditions challenged the miners physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The drama and suspense of their story will keep you turning the pages of this quick read.

The Bottom Line: This is a riveting story of workplace disaster, politics, family, physical endurance, and survival. It's also a story of hard working men and the people who love them. Chances are you remember the story, now read about what really happened. Enthusiastically recommended for readers who enjoy survival stories.

Book Club Notes: Our group thrives on exploring different opinions, so this was a lively discussion. With 15+ participants we really had to be respectful of the amount of time each person had to talk. Several people mentioned that they didn't like the journalistic style of the book and would have liked to know more about the miners' private lives. Others enjoyed the style and said the author did a good job of respecting the privacy of the survivors. A few people said that the beginning of the book (the first 75 pages especially) was slow. It was difficult at times to keep track of who was who as there were so many people involved. Several of us were wanting of more information about mining and drilling. I supplemented the discussion with diagrams, maps, photos, and a timeline as these items were sparse in the hardcover book. Several members had watched documentaries online. Also, a few checked out the movie, The 33, after the discussion. Overall the ratings (on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 being the highest) ranged from 3.5 to 5 with an average of 4.5. 

To sum, this is an inspirational and education story of faith, friendship, and teamwork. While this may not have been their first choice in books, this title was an awesome book club pick. This was our best discussion of the year, and it's always great to end the year on a high note. For book clubs considering this book, check out the discussion questions at Reading Group Guides. 
Details: Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar. Paperback published by Picador in 2014. 320 p. ISBN: 978-1-250-07485-0 

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