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Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story Hardcover – May 21, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In October 1984, a commuter plane crashed in northern Alberta. Of the 10 people aboard, there were 4 survivors: the pilot, an RCMP constable, the prisoner he was ­transporting, and the author’s father, the late Larry Shaben, Alberta’s housing minister. Journalist Shaben relies heavily on the memories of the survivors, who formed an improbable bond as they waited, desperately, to be rescued from almost certain death from their injuries and from the freezing temperature. The rescue comes about halfway through the book. The rest of it explores the crash’s aftermath and the lives of the survivors. Paul Archambault’s story is the most interesting. A prisoner with a long rap sheet (car theft, breaking and entering), he became a hero after the crash, saving the RCMP constable’s life and helping to keep his fellow survivors warm and safe until the rescuers came. For him, the crash was a life-changing event, but ultimately his life ended tragically. Although author Shaben’s father was one of the survivors, she divides the limelight among all four of them. --David Pitt


"Gripping and emotionally affecting. . . a deep and satisfying book."—Washington Post

"[Shaben] vividly recreates how these four total strangers managed to survive the tragedy."—New York Post

"With Into the Abyss Carol Shaben gives us an astonishing true story of catastrophe and redemption. Shaben writes from the inside out, as in the best non-fiction, creating a nuanced and tightly braided portrait of four men and their shared trauma that is by turns terrifying and deeply humane. Every line in this story rings true."—John Vaillant, author of The Tiger

"Electrifying...Shaben's riveting narrative is filled with heart and the story is well told."Publishers Weekly

"[T]his is a complex, chilling narrative rendered with depth and precision, engaged in both its characters and the larger social moment... A worthy addition to the canon of extreme-survival nonfiction."—Kirkus

"As a concept, it doesn't get much better [than this]... Into the Abyss is in the best traditions of true-life journalism and grips from beginning to end."—Iain Finlayson, The Times

"The gripping account . . . is ultimately about the survivors, telling the story in scouring yet respectful detail of the four men who limped away from the fatal crash."—Fish Griwkowsky, Edmonton Journal

"A story that has haunted Vancouver-based writer Carol Shaben, Larry's daughter, since it happened... She was able to use [Archambault's] story to take readers along on that stormy night, to the side of a mountain where four men struggled to stay alive overnight alongside the six others who had died."—Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (May 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455501956
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455501953
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #374,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Started and finshed this book in a weekend.
She tells a fascinating story of lives that were changed forever by a dreadful night that the rest of us can barely imagine.
Stephan Wilkinson
Carol Shabens book is very well written and easy to read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By booklover343 on June 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I love a good survival story and this seemed just my cup of tea. But, the promos don't really describe the book.

First of all, the "blurb" on the cover is compelling BUT the cop and the criminal were not shackled together at the time of the crash. The cop had removed the handcuffs when they got on the plane. Plus, I think that shackles are actually leg and arm chains (not handcuffs), but I could be wrong.

I was all set to dig into a survival story, but the four men who lived through the plane crash were rescued eleven hours later! Really? I think almost anyone could survive eleven hours...especially when they have clothing, matches so they can have a fire, and things to burn from the plane. I can't help but compare this story to a real survival story like the one with the soccer team in the Andes where they were marooned for ten WEEKS.

This book is really an indictment of the small airline industry where pilots are pressured into taking risky flights and flying when they are exhausted. The pilot of this plane was, in fact, at fault in the crash. He was relatively inexperienced, tired (though it later turns out he had more time off right before the flight than he first claimed), and concerned about the weather.

The author is the daughter of one of the crash survivors. She is a skilled writer and delves deeply into the four crash survivors' lives after the crash. I was most interested in the criminal, Paul, who deals with a sudden burst of fame.

This isn't a bad's mostly very interesting, but just not at all what a buyer would assume from the cover and book jacket description.

Not to be nit-picky, but the word "abyss" means an immeasurably deep chasm and they crashed on a mountain side.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mystery Eh on November 13, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The title of this relatively brief work of historical non-fiction promises an almost greater disaster than what actually occurred. Those who perished, the ones who could rightly be said to have disappeared into an abyss, do not receive quite the same attention as those who almost miraculously did survive the crash of the small commuter airplane in the northern region of Alberta, Canada. Carol Shaben does a fine job providing the perspectives of the three people she had a chance to interview and offers a flattering, yet honest, view of the fourth survivor. The text's greatest achievement is the blending of sources, official and private, and perspectives, which allows the author to include dialogue without seeming to fictionalize events. In particular, the book's in-depth attention to the events leading up to the crash are relevant today, since it seems that none of the issues of flying this far north in small aircraft to small airports has been properly addressed. Just within the last weeks, northern aviator companies asked the Canadian flight regulators to loosen the rules addressing pilot fatigue and bad weather flight and landing. While I would not classify this book a "must-read," it is most certainly of interest to those with an interest in aviation, northern accessibility, Alberta history, and compelling, critical yet gentle, re-telling of true events.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Carlol Shaben , journalist and daughter of one of the four crash survivors, has given us an 'up close and personal' story of the deliverance and journey of four people from a life-altering disaster to the present day. She has graphically captured the immediate aftermath of the plane crash and her descriptions place you in the middle of this terrifying scene.There is much in this narrative to make your heart pound and much that speaks to man's determination to survive and to his resilience.

Please edit any part of the above in the interest of brevity. Scott Deschamps, the cop, is family. Since the crash we have been able to listen to his account of the dramatic events on several occasions and to watch his progress over the years as he healed and devised a game plan for moving forward. Scott's account of events does not diminish the impact of the book in any way.
Kudos to Random House for publishing this book and for Amazon for making it available to E readers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Judy on December 1, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was thrilled that this story has finally been told. And I think there was no better person to tell it than the daughter of much beloved Larry Shaben, a survivor of the crash, a senior cabinet minister in the Alberta government, and charismatic leader in this northern Alberta community. Carol Shaben's skill in presenting factual accounts of this compelling drama in the manner one would expect of her journalistic background, and yet written with the story-telling ability of a fiction writer, makes for great reading. The story line is almost a "made for Hollywood scenario" as a convict being transported by an RCMP officer survives the crash and then faces a moral decision to run and avoid his own destiny facing court charges, or to stay and save the lives of his fellow passengers in this horrific plane crash. But it is not Hollywood fiction, it is reality - and Shaben does a great job of following the survivors twenty years after the crash to explore the impact this horrific accident had on the unfolding of the lives of the survivors, including her father. A great read!
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