Lost in Shangri-La is a true story about an event so unbelievable it almost reads like fiction. When twenty-four officers and enlisted men and women stationed on the Dutch New Guinea military base during WWII decided to go on a sightseeing trip over the beautiful Shangri-La, what was supposed to be a fun-filled day of adventure quickly turned into tragedy. Some unknown problem caused the plane to crash, and only three passengers survived – Margaret Hastings, John McCollom, and Kenneth Decker. Lost in Shangri-La follows the survivors as they seek help, fight to survive crippling injuries and life-threatening conditions, and come into contact with natives known primarily for their violent lifestyle and cannibalistic ways.
See, I told you it sounded like fiction! The fact is these events really did happen, and Zuckoff manages to tell the story in a factual, yet extremely entertaining manner. The author clearly explains the gravity of the situation for everyone involved, but he also obviously has a great sense of humor. Every few pages the reader is treated to one anecdotal story after another about the survivors’ interaction with the natives and the cultural misunderstandings that inevitably occurred. (My favorite involves a bunch of soldiers stripping to their birthday suits to “prove that they were men” when a group of indigenous men wouldn’t stop stroking them. You’re just going to have to read the book to find out what was going on!)
All in all, I really enjoyed Lost in Shangri-La. Zuckoff’s writing style is informative without being boring, and I found myself looking forward to each new chapter as I raced through the previous ones. I will say that there seemed to be a prevalent theme of sexism in the story, but that really had more to do with the time-period (the plane crashed in 1945) than the story itself. Still, I had a few moments when it was hard to look past the seemingly nonchalant sexist attitudes. It was one of those stories that I couldn’t wait to finish –so I could see what would happen – but I was sad to see end. I’m happy to have had the chance to read it!
Amanda is mommy, freelance writer, and blogger in her spare time. If you like this review, be sure to check out the blog at Giveaway Blogdom or take a minute to read her most recent article on Childhood Vaccinations.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.