Will to Live: dispatches from
the edge of survival
- Les Stroud
The Spousal Unit and I have always enjoyed watching Les Stroud's Survivorman series, so when I spotted this book last Christmas, I knew it would make the perfect unexpected gift for a man who reads mainly fishing magazines. Perfect because I was to keen to read it too.
In Will to Live, Stroud deconstructs stories of survival and analyses them, grading the survivors on their preparedness in terms of their knowledge, their dumb luck, the completeness of their supply kit, and their sheer determination. In the course of the book, he reconstructs some very famous cases of survival (the 1972 crash in the Andes of a plane carrying a team of Uruguayan rugby players) and lesser known, but equally riveting stories (Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson's hellish three month trek). Stroud looks at the actions and inactions of the survivors to determine what they did right and what they did wrong, in determining their own survival and that of others in their party.
Stroud is very judgmental in his analysis, and to be fair, some of the people were remarkably ill-prepared and naive. The story that struck particularly close to home was that of the young couple and their infant who set off to drive to a funeral across the Donner Pass (of all places) in a late December blizzard. When storm conditions closed the pass, they chose to take a lesser travelled road, despite not even having winter boots with them, and inevitably became stranded in a wilderness park. Stroud was particularly harsh in his evaluation of their foolhardiness, but it did serve to make me think twice about what supplies I keep in the urban assault vehicle (pitifully few).
These stories are utterly riveting. The resilience and the McGuyverism displayed by some of those depicted in these tales are truly inspiring. I don't think that I am any more capable of being one of those who push through to survival at all costs after reading Will to Live, but I am definitely very grateful that I have never had to test myself this way.
These tales of survival are interspersed with stories from Les Stroud's own experiences as someone who makes his living and has established his reputation as being a survival expert.
I was somewhat disappointed to learn, in the acknowledgements, that Stroud employed a ghostwriter, Mike Vlessides, to research and help write the stories. But at least he was honest about it.
This is a fascinating book, peopled with individuals who have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Definitely recommended.