Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Book Review: One Step Beyond

Warren MacDonald's autobiographical book is actually about 10 years old, but I picked it up at my local library recently and thought I'd share my thoughts on it.

Warren was an Australian conservationist and wilderness guide. On a holiday in Queensland he headed over to Hinchbrook Island and after meeting a Dutch tourist decided to accompany him on a climb up the remote Mt Bowen.

This was meant to be a challenging but short trip. Instead it led to a life-changing accident. After losing the trail, Warren and his companion made camp for the night on a flat rock beside a creek. On a quick excursion to relieve himself on the other side of the creek, Warren dislodged a boulder and found himself pinned under it in the creek itself.

The book details the night they spent trying at first to free Warren's legs from the boulder, and then trying to keep him safe and warm until his companion could go for help in the morning. It then goes on to the (seemingly interminable) wait for help to arrive, and Warren's long road to accepting the reality of what has happened and what it will mean for the rest of his life.

The story is told both from Warren's point of view, and from his Dutch companion's. Getting inside both the "victim's" and "rescuer's" heads is quite interesting. I found myself constantly asking "What would I do?" "How would I deal with this?" "Would I survive something like this?"

This wasn't a glamourous accident on a famous mountaintop. This was just one of those split-second moments that can shatter a life. Luckily Warren didn't let it shatter his - at least not permanently.

While Warren's writing style is very typical Aussie bloke, no frills stuff, he does convey a lot of the emotion of the situation. For anyone who ever wondered what it's like to be on that razor edge between hope and hopelessness, this is worth a read.

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