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438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea Paperback – September 27, 2016
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“The best survival book in a decade." (Outside)
“A spectacular triumph of grit over adversity, 438 Days is an intense, immensely absorbing read.” (Booklist)
"A fascinating, action-packed account of long-term survival on the open seas."
"A fascinating, action-packed account of long-term survival on the open seas. Very inspiring!" (ABC News (Best Book of 2015))
"[A] harrowing tale." (New York Daily News)
"Jonathan Franklin is an American journalist, but it is with a novelist’s eye for detail, rather than a reporter’s matter-of-factness, that he gives this gripping saga the chronicle it deserves...it unfolds like a rollicking adventure story...remarkable...reminded me of both Yann Martel’s Life Of Pi and William Golding’s Pincher Martin, yet tells a tale that is nothing if not astoundingly, engrossingly singular." (Daily Mail (UK))
"As this old world pursues its endless journey round the sun, many are the tales of death and disaster on the high seas. Few indeed are those that tell of near-miraculous survival, fed by human courage, faith, strength and intelligence. This is one such." (Roanoke Times)
About the Author
Jonathan Franklin regularly reports for The Guardian, VICE, and Esquire. He also works with the team at Retro Report producing documentaries broadcast by The New York Times. Based in Santiago, Chile, and Manhattan, Franklin reports on Latin America. Franklin’s previous book 33 Men, the exclusive account of Chilean miners trapped nearly a kilometer underground, became a national bestseller in the US and UK and was translated into nineteen languages. He can be contacted @FranklinBlog and JonathanFranklin.com.
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Overall I rated this book four and a half stars out of five. This was a truly amazing story, it is a one of a kind story. The kind you will only hear once in your lifetime. It is one of those stories that you have trouble believing that it's true. I really liked how this book included relevant information/facts and opinions coming from specialists, in that they backed up as well as enriched Salvadore Alvarenga's remarkable survival at sea. I am in awe of Salvadore, in his humility and his optimism, in how he never gave up. Just close your eyes for a moment, and imagine that you are stranded at sea. What would you do? How would you survive? To find out how Salvadore Alvarenga survived you must read this book for yourself
I remember seeing on TV the news a few days later reporting *ever-so-briefly* the “claim” that Alvarenga was lost at sea for fourteen months. The reports on two different stations were extremely short… and they hinted that this had to be a hoax. The image of the “supposed” historic survivor… with crazy hair and unkempt beard… and what looked like a generous belly… was never brought to my attention again…
UNTIL… this UNEQUIVOCALLY… mesmerizing… hypnotic… empathy… inducing book. The author does an unbelievable job… start to finish. Jonathon Franklin first indoctrinates the reader… as to not only what type of individual Alvarenga was throughout his life… which included fleeing El Salvador… in fear of his life… after a brutal bar room brawl… but explains the entire life style of the Mexican village Alvarenga subsequently lived and worked in. There are no punches pulled in describing the day after day of drinking and drugs… followed by day after day of life threatening fishing for among other things sharks. The awful weather conditions that the area was famous for… and as if to prove the reputation was well earned… such a massive storm… is what started this whole fourteen-month odyssey.
The impression the author makes on the reader… regarding the rough physical labor imbedded in these fishing trips… even before the small boat is taken out to parts of the ocean so dreaded and desolate… that even astronauts viewing it from space while orbiting the earth… make statements as to its… gloomy… dismal… isolation… is excruciating. As an example… in that tiny boat they carry “2-mile-long line studded with up to seven hundred hooks and hope the tuna, mahimahi, marlin and sharks are biting. Sharks are their preferred catch.” Two men alone bait the hooks… throw out the line… pull in the fish… by hand!
After the boat is taken deep out to sea… with the motor non-operational… no paddles… no anchor (which would be worthless anyway)… a phone that no longer is usable… and weather that ranged from pouring storms… to day after day of unbearable heat… that literally bubbled the skin. The men’s faith and knowledge were tested minute to minute. They would run out of drinking water… run out of food… and soon only Salvador would remain. The reader is literally dragged into the hell on earth… that is… the tiny boat Salvador is in… you start feeling his hunger… his thirst… his success at times in catching with his bare hands… turtles… sharks… and then birds. The nauseating repulsion of what he has to eat… when he is “blessed” with the opportunity to… is palpitating. Covering himself with a cooler (ice) box that was meant to store the fish they went out to catch on the original trip… is used to protect him from the merciless sun… and to protect him from the cold at night. It’s claustrophobic to the reader… so imagine what it was to him.
What takes this book to an even higher level… are the interspersed *expert* educational verification to facts that any doubter as to the time and space… and physical… AND… emotional… toll and situations… that were actually faced… might bring up. The author takes the offensive… in making sure… that anyone even off-handedly attempting to cast stones as to any of this being a fraud… are shot down… before they can even get any proverbial guns out of their holster. There are quotes from psychologists… biologists… ship captains… even astronauts. The author has truly done his homework.
This awe-inspiring book doesn’t end when Salvador makes it to shore… think how you would be mentally and physically if you went not only fourteen months without being able to move twenty-five feet… fearing every moment for your life… starving and dying of thirst… but if you did not have the ability to talk to even one human being for a year? So… it wasn’t only muscles that atrophied so bad… that Salvador could barely walk ten feet… but his personality… and cognitive skills had almost totally deteriorated. The author professionally and humanly covers that also.
This book will obviously be made into a movie one day… but with all the reading I’ve done over the years… I have never found a movie as good as a good book. There is no way on the Lord’s green earth… that a movie will be able to capture this entire story the way the author has.
An added feature of this book is an understanding of a unique dead part of the Pacific Ocean where he is trapped for a long period. But also a part that has great water and great sea life and birds for food. Of course, you still have to be good enough to catch them which is what makes this book so stunning.
And finally he makes it to shore in a horrid state. Even here the story is fascinating about how he is found and what he was mentally thinking. This is a great, fast read that I strongly recommend.
438 Days is such a compelling read, it is hard not to be moved by this tale of the strength and limits of the human body and spirit.