Friday, February 2, 2018

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free - Hector Tobar

Summary: When the San Jose mine collapsed outside of Copiapo, Chile, in August 2010, it trapped thirty-three miners beneath thousands of feet of rock for a record-breaking sixty-nine days. Across the globe, we sat riveted to television and computer screens as journalists flocked to the Atacama desert. While we saw what transpired above ground during the grueling and protracted rescue, the story of the miners' experiences below the earth's surface and the lives that led them there hasn't been heard until now. In this master work of a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Hector Tobar, gains exclusive access to the miners and their stories. The result is a miraculous and emotionally textured account of the thirty-three men who came to think of the San José mine as a kind of coffin, as a cave inflicting constant and thundering aural torment, and as a church where they sought redemption through prayer while the world watched from above. It offers an understanding of the families and personal histories that brought los 33 to the mine, and the mystical and spiritual elements that surrounded working in such a dangerous place. (Summary and pic from

My Review: This is another one of my book club reads. Don’t you feel like you’re right there with us? Too bad you missed out on the yummy artichoke dip with pita chips and the pumpkin roll (January weight loss resolutions? Forgettaboutit!)

As with many of my book club reads, this isn’t a book I would normally have picked up. I do enjoy nonfiction, but nonfiction about mining isn’t necessarily something that would have been on my radar. I do vaguely remember when this happened, although I was not a huge news watcher in 2010 and so would have heard about it somewhere other than there. So with all this being said, I don’t really remember it all that clearly. I have since watched YouTube videos of the rescue, and of course I’m well-versed now that I’ve read the book, but to suffice it to say, I didn’t know what happened when I started reading this book.

I have quite a few thoughts about this book. First of all, it is really well written. Hector Tobar, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, is legit. I never felt bogged down by facts or confused. As most of the miners were Chilean (there was one Bolivian), most of the names were in Spanish, and there were 33 of them, so it was easy to get confused (which would be easy to do in any language, really, when there are so many people involved). Tobar does a superb job of bringing each man to life, and then he continually gives little reminders when speaking about them again, so that the reader is easily able to remember who is who. I found this to be invaluable as I have no idea how I would have kept track save for a few of the miners who were featured prominently. Another thing I appreciated about Tobar’s descriptions was how he really created a rich time and place of when the incident happened. I’ve never been to Chile, but I felt like I was transported there, and also was able to understand what the mine would have been like. Tobar’s writing was accessible, descriptive, and had just the right amount of details. Too many details and you’re bombarded and it gets so technical it’s confusing. Too few details and you don’t feel like you understand the topic. Tobar was able to strike that careful balance between just enough details with just enough description to make it interesting and accessible. We have a wide variety of readers in our book club and although we all like to read (hence the book club) there are varying degrees of commitment to nonfiction literature. The general consensus was that everybody really enjoyed this book, which is a pretty tall order from my book club. They will all participate, they will be fun and lovely as always, but they may not always love the book. I think everyone really liked this book, and that is high praise from a diverse group of women.

This book was inspiring and heartwarming. The miners themselves came from small and seemingly insignificant places, but the world pulled together to save them. It was an affirming and inspiring story about normal people and how ultimately we all have to care for each other. I loved reading about the strength of some of the miners, but also of their families, and although many of them did not end up having the happy ever after that one would hope after such an experience, there was something to be learned from each of them and what they took away from the experience. One of our favorite things we discussed in book club was about what each person is to do with the different experiences they are given in life. I think this book did a great job of not only bringing out this question but also of offering many different examples of how an individual may act and what the consequences will be. The book was a good book club book in that there was a lot of discussion both of the actual event (we definitely watched some of the YouTube footage) as well as the overarching issues of men who were put in this very strange and unprecedented situation.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There was some language and some mild suggestive discussion, but it was a clean book and I was comfortable reading it in my church book club.

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