Friday, November 16, 2012

Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle -- Marc Gonsalves, Tom Howe, Keith Stansell, Gary Brozek -------------------- 3 Stars

So, I'm kind of really into borrowing books for my Kindle from the local library now.  Positive -- it's free and you can find many more books than you might think.  Negative -- the usually only have 1 or 2 copies and you have to wait until they are 'checked back in' before you can get them.  I usually have a list of about 15 books that I want to read and Out of Captivity had been on the list for a while now.  So, I was excited to see I could borrow it from the library with no wait*

I heard about this book a couple years ago as being an incredible true story.  Much in the same vein as books like Alive, it is a true story about some horrific conditions that some individuals found themselves and how they made it out alive.  In this case, it's about the three guys to your right: Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Tom Howes.  Quick premise: they are flying over the Colombian jungle, have engine problems, go down, get captured by the local terrorist organization (the FARC) and are held as hostages for about 5 1/2 years.  It's a crazy story.

So, why did this amazing tale only get 3 stars?  Well, just because it's an amazing story does not mean it's an amazing book.  The best part of the book is indeed the amazing story.  From the earliest explanation for how this could possibly take place, to the details of every place they lived in for 5 years, to the thrilling story of how they got out, it's an unbelievable tale.  There is no doubt that after you read this book you will have a far greater appreciation for the little conveniences of life and the luck we have of living in American (and more obviously not as a hostage). The book also does a great job to illuminate an issue that is rarely discussed or is paid attention to: the surprising number of Americans (and other groups) that are currently hostages in Columbia and around the world.

Even with this retelling of this amazing story, the book has a number of problems.  First, it's told completely from the point of view from one of the three hostages at every point in the book.  So while there has been some editing of the passages, they still often come across as choppy, unorganized, and poorly told.  Problem #2 is that this book really needed a better editor.  While in some cases it was interesting to find out pertinent details and facts about certain parts of their time in captivity, the book goes way overboard including nearly EVERYTHING.  There are moments were 4 or 5 pages take place with no dialogue, or real events occurring, just explanation about minutiae.  In addition, and this a purely preferential issue, the book is incredibly sad.  Not surprisingly, the stories about what it was like in captivity aren't exactly pleasent.

It really is unfortunate that the book was not edited better and only the most worthwhile information was included.  It is a tremendous story and all three men who got out have a different and interesting look at the world.  I would still recommend this book to most people because after you get past the fact that there are some large chunks that you just have to keep pushing to get through, you are left with a really wonderful and (eventual) uplifting story about the journey of these three Americans.  

*Footnote -- You can only borrow the book for 3 weeks like the normal library and then your loan on the Kindle makes it disappear.  You then have to go back, hope no one has it and borrow it again...UNLESS, you are smart like me and if you turn off your wireless on your Kindle, the Kindle does not know (because it can't access the Internet) that the book is due and you can finish it then turn the wireless back on.  Your welcome.