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Read Left For Dead: My Journey Home From Everest (2001)

Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest (2001)

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3.68 of 5 Votes: 1
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0440237084 (ISBN13: 9780440237082)

Left For Dead: My Journey Home From Everest (2001) - Plot & Excerpts

It's pretty rare that my opinion of a book changes dramatically over the course of reading it. Sure, a book that starts off well can turn out to be less interesting as time goes on, or a bad beginning can be saved by an increasingly good plot. But it's far less common to be considering putting the book down permanently after 100 pages, then end up enjoying it immensely by the end. Such was the case with “Left for Dead”. After the first third, I thought it was poorly written and expected the rest of the book to be boring filler. As is turned out, it just keeps getting better and better, eventually turning into a quality read that I would recommend to almost anyone.After reading “Into Thin Air” earlier this year, I was curious to read one of the multitude of other books written about the 1996 Everest disaster, in which over a dozen people were killed in a single day by a sudden storm. Many of the those books were written in response to Krakauer's magazine article and book, which paints a fairly unflattering picture of some of the other climbers involved. I wasn't too interesting in reading books about the back and forth of differing viewpoints and opinions on who did or did not do the right thing that day. More appealing to me was “Left for Dead”, which is about the near miraculous survival of Beck Weathers. He had spent the entire duration of the storm laying in the snow, blind, frozen, and lost. When he was found the next day, he was still breathing but it was decided to leave him behind. The other climbers knew that physiologically he had no chance of survival and to attempt to rescue him would simply endanger the others. Hours later, barely conscious, he walked back to camp himself. Still at extremely high altitude and near death, the other climbers again assumed that he would pass away during the night. The next morning he insisted on walking further down the mountain with them, where he was eventually rescued by the highest altitude helicopter flight in history. This story is related in the first hundred pages of the book. While the story itself is amazing and a true testament to the human will, the writing is simply sub-par. Characters are introduced with barely a description then not mentioned again, the pacing of the adventure is all off, and the reader just doesn't get a good feel for what it was really like up there (unlike in Krakauer's book, where the descriptions make you feel like you're on the mountain yourself). Most surprisingly of all, after the first 100 pages of a 350 page book, the Everest story is over! “What a rip off!”, I thought, where's my adventure story? I was already mentally preparing my negative review. When the following chapter started to detail his early life, I felt that the book was just going to keep getting worse.Instead, it got a whole lot better. Weathers, his family, and friends all give personal, first person accounts of their lives leading up the expedition to Everest. The story of survival is amazing, but it becomes even more fascinating as a story about an individual, a human with flaws just like everyone else. This wasn't some athletic superhero up there; Weathers was a man suffering from depression and a danger obsession that was ruining his marriage and family. By telling the story of his life and especially his relationship with his wife (which at times is brutally honest and open) the reader starts to see the human context his which the events on Everest took place. This makes the story vastly more interesting, and Weathers' survival on Everest becomes just one part of a wonderful redemption story.If you go into this book, as I did, expecting to read “Into Thin Air” from a different perspective, then you will be disappointed. On the other hand, if you are interested in a book about real people struggling with their demons and the power of life and death situations to change lives, read “Left for Dead”.

Caution: This review might contain enough detail to be considered a spoiler if you haven't yet read the book.I haven't really read other mountaineering books; this was my first. Mountaineering stories in the "Readers' Digest" are a different matter, but I didn't think I'd have the stamina to read someone's epic explorations. Was I surprised.I loved the parts that deal with how he became ensnared into climbing and exploring, to escape the conflict with his family. People can develop a selfish streak and turn away from the family they themselves have created. I really enjoyed the way he had to push himself to his limits to reach summits; the ambition that drives one on past exhaustion. The "feel" of the outdoors parts is absolutely great, like taking a mountaineering holiday yourself. It was interesting reading just how much training and prep goes into such ventures. And of course the part where he nearly dies on Mt Everest is as gripping as it gets. (Some spooky parts too; like the camp mate who forgot to put on his crampons...)There is very little I'd find wanting with the adventure part. Now as for the other 3/4 of the book...I feel the history of both himself and his wife could have been culled down to 2 paragraphs. What I feel is not irrelevant is the conflict, and the follow-up. They were a well-off American family, him being a successful doctor. Where other such professionals would bury themselves in work when they get bored with their family (because basically, that's what it was), he buried himself in a physically escapist hobby. I am intrigued by his wife. She is clearly not a doormat and clearly loves him very much, enough so to support the very hobby that takes him away from her and her children. She knows it means a lot to him to achieve Mt Everest, so she is the one who hires the personal trainer for him. And on his road to recovery, she actually honours her vows and looks after him, taking on that burden instead of getting the divorce he has been setting up for years (and so richly deserves!)What makes a woman do that? I'd read it again just to get some clues to this. (But I'd skip the childhood histories of both - really not such very interesting biographies! It's not as though we are researching the background of the Wright brothers.)

What do You think about Left For Dead: My Journey Home From Everest (2001)?

After reading Into Thin Air, I was excited to read Weathers's account of the disaster on Mount Everest that Krakauer had written so well, to get the perspective of a different climber. I was hugely disappointed, however, because in Left For Dead, Weathers discusses Everest only briefy, very briefly (perhaps in part b/c he can't remember much of what happened to him), only touches on his recovery from his injuries, and spends at least half of the book giving an autobiography of his entire life. I appreciated that he included narratives from his family and friends, and I also appreciated his great sense of humour, but the book just didn't deliver the content I was looking for.

The harsh rating is because of a couple reasons. ( In the end I changed it to 3 instead of 2 stars because the good outweighted the bad).First, the account of the Everest disaster was covered in less than half the book and was extremely confusing. It was like Weathers would follow his train of thought wherever it took him. That was extremely evident if you - like I did- had read Jon Krakauer's book first. Of course Krakauer is a writer and Weathers isn't but I found myself so confused with Weathers' account of the events even though I was as informed as I could have been without actually being there, having read Krakauer's book days prior. I imagine that if I hadn't read Krakauer's book I wouldn't have been able to make sense of Weathers'.I was starting to wonder what the rest of the book would be about if we hadn't yet reached the middle of the book and he had already been rescued and brought back to Kathmandu.The answer came in the form of a few chapters dedicated to his childhood that I gave up reading after a while, thinking that there would be nothing else to read in this book.Still I continued and I'm glad I did so. I admit that the interception of the narrative with other people's POV was at first a little out of place if not comical to me. But as I kept reading what was essentially a memoir and not an account of the 1996 disaster I appreciated more and more. It was his honest account of his life, his depression, his fascination with mountaineering and his growing distance from his family.I admit I would have liked a few more details about the Everest expedition and the people involved but Weathers' inner monologue made up for it. It was smart, witty, funny and spot on when it came to describing depression. Also his wife Peach gave on honest account of how her husband's depression creeped up on her and how she had no idea at first, which I think it's accurate for the majority of family members living with a depressed person.Overall, the book wasn't what it said it would be. It wasn't an account of the Everest expedition but an account of Beck Weather's life and the lessons he learned. The question "Who is this person and why should I read his memoir?" is valid. After all this isn't a remarkable person, with the meaning we've given the world today. Nevertheless after reading the book, he seemed pretty remarkable to me.

Like many others, when I began reading this book I thought it was going to be all about his experience in the Everest disaster but when I discovered it wasn't just that but also followed his personal shortcomings with depression and his failure to commit to his family fully I was a little taken aback. However, having heard of him and his miraculous escape from both death and Everest in "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakaur I became intrigued about his journey back not only from the climb but into a healthy productive personal life, especially where his family was concerned. His long road to recovery both mentally and most especially physically was very interesting to me. It gave insight into what drives a person, him at least , to take such chances. I found myself feeling very satisfied learning of his life and enjoyed it very much!
—Marlene French

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