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Deep Down Dark Paperback – September 1, 2015
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“Vivid, suspenseful, [and] electrifying.” ―People
“The equal, if the geographical inverse, of Into Thin Air.” ―Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
“Weaving together the drama of the miners' harrowing ordeal below ground with the anguish of families and rescuers on the surface, Tobar delivers a masterful account of exile and human longing, of triumph in the face of all odds. Taut with suspense and moments of tenderness and replete with a cast of unforgettable characters, Deep Down Dark ranks with the best of adventure literature.” ―Scott Wallace, Los Angeles Times
“Whether the story is completely new to you, or if you were one of the millions glued to the news reports and wondering, will they make it-physically, emotionally, spiritually-you'll be greatly rewarded to learn how they did.” ―Mac McClelland, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“Héctor Tobar takes us so far down into the story and lives of the Chilean miners that his reconstruction of a workplace disaster becomes a riveting meditation on universal human themes. Deep Down Dark is an extraordinary piece of work.” ―George Packer
“In this masterful dissection of the 2010's dramatic sixty-nine day ordeal by thirty-three trapped Chilean miners, Héctor Tobar weaves a suspenseful narrative that moves back and forth between the waking nightmares of the buried men, and those of their families on the earth's surface. In Deep Down Dark, Héctor Tobar takes us deftly to the very cliff-edge of human survival.” ―Jon Lee Anderson
“It's almost hard to believe that Héctor Tobar wasn't himself one of the trapped Chilean miners, so vivid, immediate, terrifying, emotional, and convincing is his Homeric narration of this extraordinary incident. Deep Down Dark is a literary masterpiece of narrative journalism, surgical in its reconstruction, novelistic in its explorations of human personality and nuance. In a manner that feels spiritual, Tobar puts himself at the service of his story, and his fidelity to and unquenchable curiosity about every fact and detail generates unforgettable wonderment and awe.” ―Francisco Goldman
“A gripping narrative, taut to the point of explosion.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“My favorite book of the year. Perfect for fans of Unbroken.” ―Ann Patchett, People
“An account that brims with emotion and strength.” ―USA Today
“A powerful tale of universal interest.” ―The Christian Science Monitor
“That Tobar has so vividly reconstructed a life-threatening event remembered differently by thirty-three minds is a mountainous feat of reportage.” ―The Washington Post
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Soon, amazingly, it would actually be over.
One of them looks around at the would-be tomb and feels a generous kind of wonder, a near reverence that transforms the dark pit of death into sacred ground. He actually writes a letter to leave behind, and signs it: "'Mario Sepulveda lived here from August 5 to October 13," then, with the note, adds some pictures he's recently given through the portal created when a giant drill finally bore its way down to them and opened up what seemed miraculous communication. Mario Sepulveda is awed by what he's been through. He's on his knees in reverence.
Raul Bustos will have none of that. Bustos gathers rocks and flings them, one after another, into the abyss as if striking a beast now clumsily sauntering away into the darkness. He scribbles obscenities on the walls in permanent markers, blaming the mine owners for the misery he's gone through. "I wanted it all to go away," Bustos told Hector Tobar, who chronicled the entire story in Deep, Down Dark. With every bit of his being, Bustos wants the mine to disappear from his consciousness and the world's: "I didn't want anyone else to see it, to come and say later, 'See, look, this is where Raul Bustos slept.' It was all very private, and it was mine."
"The earth is giving birth to its 33 children after having them inside her for two months and eight days." Victor Segovia, at the very same moment, looks back at what he and the others had gone through and sees something else altogether. Segovia had been the main chronicler of the miners' experiences, his memories and insights the only day-to-day written record of what exactly happened to 33 men trapped in the heat and night of a collapsed mine all of them believed would be a graveyard.
Finally, Victor draws a heart inside his diary and writes "I LOVE SAN JOSE," because, Hector Tobar says, "the mine is like him: flawed and neglected but worthy of respect and love."
How three men react to the very same awful experience--just over two months of near starvation in the dark neighborhood of death--is a marvel because we are, all of us, somehow perfectly unique. There are no clones. One of the men makes the tomb a cathedral, another a veritable hell, yet another casts the darkness as a lover. All three men are thoughtful; all three men are deadly serious. All three men have undergone an experience unlike anything anyone else in the entire world has, and now all three are about to be delivered into life up on the surface of the earth, into light, and love.
But when they look back, what they see couldn't be more different.
"What a piece of work is man," says Hamlet. He doesn't mean it as a question, but a utterance of sheer awe at the seeming incongruities we embody as human beings.
In Psalm 8, the poet says humans look so immensely feeble against a backdrop of the glorifying heavens: "What are we that you care about us?" the psalmist says, "that you have crowned us with glory and honor?" But he has.
Amazing. Just amazing.
What those many days beneath the earth did is little more than compress life in a way that every one of those 33 men understood, even though as it ended they regarded what had happened to them with night-and-day differences. They'd gone a long ways down the road toward death. And then returned.
As amazing at it sounds, their story, as told by Hector Tobar in Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that Set Them Free, as amazing and truly unique as it was, is our story too.
No one reading these words spent all that time buried in the earth, fighting for life, looking for meaning. Yet, strange as it sounds, all of us do. What makes Hector Tobar's book so moving and memorable is that somehow we are there in the mine with them, all of us.
This is the only authorized story of what happened during those 69 days, the most fascinating of which are the first 17 days when the 33 men were in the dark, damp and fetid mine and had to survive on their guts, their wits, their faith, a few old cans of tuna fish and dirty mine water. The entire time the mountain was rumbling, threatening to unleash more rock on them.
Author Hector Tobar masterfully weaves together the stories of all 33 men and their families, alternating the tale between what was going on underground and what was happening aboveground.
Tobar continues to follow the men after their rescue as they face a world that now views them as celebrities--and they have little resources or assistance in handling the resulting pressure.
I read the Kindle version and found the X-ray and Spanish translation tool inordinately helpful in keeping the different men's stories straight in my mind.
This is a can't-put-it-down read, and while I was reading it, I found myself talking about it to anyone who would listen. (Thanks, honey!) "Deep Down Dark" is a riveting, powerful story told by an exceptional writer, who understands how to meld the hard journalistic facts with the forces of human emotion.