Book Review: Miracle in the Andes

Miracle in the Andes is Nando Parrado‘s account of his rugby team’s survival in the Andes in 1972. It is the first person perspective of the story already told in the book and movie Alive. For more information on the plane crash and ensuing rescue, check out this Wikipedia page.

I haven’t seen Alive, but I’m going to, because Parrado’s book is stunning, inspiring, and beautifully written. I highly recommend it for anyone who’s looking for both a chronological telling of what happened during those 72 cold, cold days and a deeply emotional reflection only possible from the man who lived it.

What Parrado and his friends went through is unimaginable for those of us who have not experienced an ordeal of that magnitude. Reading Miracle in the Andes reminded me of reading stories from the Holocaust — there is simply no way you can get your head around the pain and suffering.

Yet, the questions I asked myself while reading were, "What would I have done? Would I have been so brave? Could I have survived?" There is no way to know. Maybe, someday, I will face a challenge that calls for true, physical courage. In the the meantime, I can be proud to know that I am human like Parrado is human, and that our shared humanity hopefully implies some sort of shared, primal, benign instincts.

The book’s universal message is that we are all mortal. I believe, as Parrado does, that we can never be too aware of the reality of death and its closeness. 

He closes the book with these words:

As we used to say in the mountains, "Breathe. Breathe again. With every breath, you are alive." After all these years, this is still the best advice I can give you: Savor your existence. Live every moment. Do not waste a breath.

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