Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff

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.

12 comments:

Naomi Johnson said...

SOLD! One of my nieces was just asking me if I couldn't recommend a good adventure story to her. This one sounds fascinating. I'm a big fan of David Howarth's WW2 recountings of rescues and endurance in the Scandinavian region, so this book will make a nice counterbalance with the heat of the South Pacific.

Lesa said...

There you go, Naomi! A book for you and your niece. Unfortunately, it's two more months until it comes out, but I'm sure you have a TBR pile, and a wishlist. This one was terrific.

Mitchell Zuckoff said...

Lesa: I just wanted to thank you for the generous review. You got the book completely, and I'm grateful.

Best,
Mitch Zuckoff

Lesa said...

Thank you, Mitch. Loved the book! I'm recommending it in my family newsletter this month as well. (Large family - over 100, and we do have a monthly family newsletter. I do the book column.) I just wish my uncle was alive to read it. He served in WWII, and always wanted to be a pilot, but his eyesight was too poor. I can think of so many people who will enjoy this book. I'll be pushing it. Thank you for your treatment of all of the people.

Bev Stephans said...

I think this would make a great present for my eldest son's birthday in April.

Lesa said...

As I said, Bev, I can think of so many people who would enjoy the book. I couldn't even wait. I mailed my copy to my brother-in-law this morning.

Salena said...

Thank you so much for this review! My teen that hates reading is interested in WWII. I can't wait to get this for him to try. I'm looking forward to April!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Salena. I hope he enjoys the book. It's a fascinating story.

Kara Helen said...

Thank you so much for reviewing this book, Lesa. I've already pre-ordered two copies. My grandfather interviews WWII vets for a museum here in Texas and I transcribe the tapes, so we're both huge WWII buffs. I can't wait to read this one! April seems fo far away, now.

Lesa said...

I know, Kara. It does seem so far away. I wish readers could get it now. But, I'm glad you found a book that you and your grandfather might both enjoy.

Man of la Book said...

I read this book this weekend and just finished writing my thoughts on it. I agree with every word you wrote - it is fantastic.

http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

Lesa said...

Wasn't it a terrific book, Man of la Book? I'll have to check out your thoughts when your comments are posted. This was one of the best nonfiction books I've read this year. Loved it.