It's unusual for me to review a book so far in advance of publication date, but a group of librarians had the chance to read Mitchell Zuckoff's Lost in Shangri-La ahead of time, and discuss it on Twitter. And, a reader asked if I was going to review it. Zuckoff's book doesn't come out until the end of April, but if there's a World War II buff in your family, a fan of true adventures, or nonfiction that reads like fiction, you might want to remember this book. My copy is heading straight to my brother-in-law, with a suggestion he pass it on to his father afterwards, a retired Air Force colonel. Father's Day gift, anyone?
The catalog shows the subtitle of this book to be "A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II." My advanced reading copy calls it, "The Epic True Story of a Plane Crash into the Stone Age." No matter what you call it, it's an unbelievable, riveting story.
Toward the end of World War II, a pilot had flown over a hidden valley in Dutch New Guinea, and reported on the hidden villages there, and the beauty of the valley, nicknamed Shangri-La. Colonel Peter Prossen hoped to maintain morale for the troops stationed in Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, so on May 13, 1945, he made arrangements for a trip over Shangri-La. Prossen himself was one of the two pilots of the Gremlin Special that carried 24 U.S. military, nine officers, nine WACs, and six enlisted men. When that plane "slammed into the jungle-covered mountainside," the few survivors were injured, isolated, and didn't know what they would face with the natives.
Zuckoff tells a gripping story that introduces readers to all of the players, beginning with the passengers on that ill-fated plane. He's careful to allow the survivors' memories and diaries to tell part of the story. The courageous men who parachuted in to protect the survivors are brought to life and recognized for their actions. The unusual rescue mission is described in detail. And, the author does a wonderful job in introducing the tribes people who played critical roles in this story. Zuckoff has done research on the native people involved, and the lifestyles of the tribes at that time. He also follows up the story, sixty years later, to let readers know what happened to everyone.
Zuckoff's Lost in Shangri-La was a hit with all the librarians who discussed it online. It's suitable for book clubs. It can be recommended for teens looking for a nonfiction adventure. Girls may be interested in the role of one particular woman in the book. As I said, it's a book for World War II buffs, fans of nonfiction adventure, or military adventure. There may be a great deal of hype surrounding this book, and, deservedly so. Even with a late April release date, it's already on a top twenty list of the most pre-ordered nonfiction titles. So, to answer that question a reader asked, yes, I highly recommend Mitchell Zuckoff's Lost in Shangri-La.
Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff. HarperCollins, ©2011. ISBN 9780061988349 (hardcover), 400p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I was sent an ARC of this book in order to participate in a book discussion.