I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives by Roberto Canessa and Pablo Vierci

I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives by Roberto Canessa and Pablo Vierci

                I was familiar with the story of the Uruguayan Rugby team that crashed in the Andes after watching the movie Alive years ago. I remember thinking after the movie ended how one could possibly go on living any semblance of a normal life after being in such a horrendous situation for over two months. Watching your friends die, having to eat their bodies to survive and the constant fear. It would take an unimaginable amount of strength to survive and then even more to continue to live. When I first ran across this title I was intrigued and ultimately overjoyed. Here was proof that someone could survive and not only continue living but use that strength to help others survive. I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives is well written memoir by Roberto Canessa who was 19 years old when his plane crashed in the Andes Mountains in 1972. This memoir is as much about the trials and tribulations of him and the other survivors as it is about the life he lived after leaving the mountain.
                This memoir is divided into two parts. The first details the struggles of Roberto and the other survivors, describing what life for them was like those sixty days barely living, before he and two others dared to try to hike out the mountain. He relays the information very matter of fact. He isn’t trying to sugar coat anything because he knows that every decision that was made was for survival. There was a selflessness that existed on the mountain that benefitted everyone. Roberto conveyed these situations in vivid detail. The second part of the memoir talks about how he uses his past experience to provide the best care possible in his field of pediatric cardiology. Roberto knows that even in the direst circumstances there is still a chance because he always believed that they had a chance to survive on that mountain and so does the child fighting to live in the incubator.

                Canessa and his coauthor Vierci did a great job with this memoir. This was written with the utmost respect for all those involved in the plane crash, those that survived and those that perished. I Had to Survive took it’s time relaying the story without lingering too long on some of the more disturbing aspects of what happened. Both parts of the book included chapters written by those whose life in some way was affected by Canessa, whether it was one of the pilots from the rescue missions, his own father or a patient. I found these included chapters to be beneficial in the first part but not so much in the second part. In the first part these chapters were used to move the plot forward and give a different perspective on life while the survivors were still on the mountain. In the second part they were used to show the many different lives Roberto has helped in different ways. I found the amount of these chapters included in the second section to be distracting but not without compassion. Overall though I enjoyed this memoir. It was well written and engaging. Canessa had an amazing story to tell and I am glad he chose to reveal what his life has been like since that plane crash in 1972.  The crash took so many lives and yet it also placed in one man’s heart a determination to never stop living and to help others. I gave this memoir 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review


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