Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review: Every Day's A Good Day

Here in New Zealand, we are sometimes a bit blasé about using active vocanoes for our recreational activities. Mt. Ruapehu has had fairly major eruptions as recently as 1996, but we continue to ski, climb and hike on it year-round.

William Pike is a Kiwi who found himself in just the wrong place at the wrong time. During a climbing trip with a friend on Ruapehu in 2007 they stopped for the night at Dome Shelter, a small hut just below the crater lake. That night, the mountain had a severe case of indigestion and sent a lahar (powerful stream of mud and rocks) straight through the hut on its way down the mountain.

William's companion was miraculously unhurt, but William was blasted by rocks, and had one leg pinned in what amounted to natural concrete. Every Day's a Good Day is the story of William's ordeal on the mountain, rescue, and recovery.

I really wanted to like this book, because I admire those who take such a major setback in their lives (in the case the amputation of his right leg below the knee) with such acceptance and optimism. Throught the story, William never seems to feel hard done by with his extreme bad luck, despite being the ONLY person hurt by the eruption. Nor does it alter his love of the outdoors or of mountaineering. There's no doubt that faced with similar circumstances, I would hope to find that kind of strength and positive attitude in myself.

Unfortunately, William is not a particularly strong writer. Although his story is compelling, he fails to make the readers feel like they are living through it with him. It also seems that he couldn't find enough to say about the actual incident to fill out a book, so instead he tells us irrelevant stories about his childhood firing a pea-shooter and his youth on the school water polo team.

Coincidentally William has just been in the news here again. (No he hasn't lost another limb!) He has just launched the William Pike Challenge Award for students. Participants will do a mix of community service, such as helping clean up ski areas, and take part in outdoor activities such as climbing the central plateau mountains, Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.

William is a school teacher and wanted to encourage more young people to gain new skills and confidence by participating in outdoor activites. Good on ya William!


Mike said...

Wow, I hadn't heard he'd published a book. I bet it's an interesting story and I'd love to learn more about how things panned out from the source, but it's a shame in a way that it's come out in a book this way if your thoughts about it are right (which doesn't surprise me).

It reminds me of Aron Ralston's book, which someone threw at me a few years ago. He's the guy who trapped himself in a canyoning accident, then had to break his arm and saw it off to save his life. It was an interesting story, but the book was pretty vacuous and to fill in space it was full of details about the rest of his life that weren't especially unique, and didn't seem relevant. (All he did was have an accident!) I only read the first few chapters and then gave up.

I guess this happens when the publishers think they can create a book that'll sell based on a single incident rather than the content. If they do it then I guess it must work and people must buy it, but the biographies I've found worth reading as complete books are of people who are nearer the end of their lives and have done a lot of things to actually fill the space. If it has to be in book form though, it'd be nice to have a compilation of several of these kinds of stories though, each more condensed and to the point. That's one of the things I enjoyed a lot about Paul Hersey's recent book (High Misadventure) that I've just finished reading.

Maple Kiwi said...

I think after any big accident or survival ordeal the people involved get bombarded with suggestions to sell their story. Unfortunately it's usually done quickly, while people are still interested, instead of taking the time to craft a good book (or film, or whatever) out of it.