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After reaching a point of exhaustion, Tom charters a plane to Ibiza, separates from his wife, goes on a long drunk and is introduced to cocaine and a world of high-end dealers. Tom is swayed into the drug business, decides to get out but is blackmailed into one last deal. He is then arrested and surrounded at gunpoint along with his partner at the Mexico City airport, while smuggling cocaine from Peru to California. He serves five years in a series of Mexican prisons, where he quickly learns that corruption is just as rampant as in the outside world. Prisoners are forced to pay extortion for humane living conditions. Men are beaten and starved. Half of his time is in four prisons in Mexico City and the remainder on the notorious Islas des Marias or "The hell of the Pacific".
The account begins with Tom's background history, education, career, global travels and increasing drug addiction, resulting in his life-changing ordeal. It portrays the emotional and psychological scarring he suffers while being incarcerated in Mexico, including the unrestrained cruelty and violence inflicted on him and fellow prisoners. Various happenings are described as he becomes an English teacher, speaks out against his own and other prisoners' torture only to be punished more, is involved with an interrupted escape plan and periodically threatened with his life if he does not bring in more money from people he knows outside. He also spends many stages in solitary. Letters to his cousin are included, as well as his deepest personal feelings of the situation, life and the world.
This book has a strong anti-drug message and displays that inhumane treatment and torture must stop in the name of humanity. Tom's sincere hope was that this story turns young people off to that seemingly harmless experience with drugs which in so many cases leads to negative experiences in life. It also shows that torture is common in a country, which as so many others has signed the international treaties of human rights.
In order to survive, Tom must walk a fine line. In a world seemingly without hope, he achieves the impossible via amazing perseverance, strength, faith in a higher power, meditation, self-therapy, love, truth and transformation of awareness. His good heart, honesty, intelligence, strong ethics, talents and ability to quickly learn the culture and language helps him befriend fellow prisoners and amuse his captors. On the islands, he is placed in charge of a boat factory to build fifty boats with the possibility of release, upon reaching this goal. Life on the islands is detailed including a work assignment in the jungle where he chops wood and fends for his own food such as iguanas and bugs just to stay alive. There, he also meets, falls in love with and marries Adriana, the prison psychologist, who with the help of the Norwegian embassy rescues him and obtains his release.
Tom’s personal, philosophical and spiritual journey and revelations are intertwined on a foundation of socio-political issues. The title signifies the “Mirror” he sees himself in and the "Maze" he travels through to arrive at the exit. Upon his release, he went back to Norway with his new wife Adriana where he was welcomed home and worked for the Norwegian government to assist immigrant refugees. Our sweet Tom lived a peaceful life until age 65. His wish and promise to God was that his story be told and we are carrying this out.
Posted January 10, 2011
A Mirror Maze is the true story of how Tom Brungar survived his imprisonment in a Mexican prison. Tom is Norwegian. The business man was on vacation in Ibiza. His drug addiction was strong and increasing daily. He and his partner were arrested in Mexico City while trying to smuggle drugs from Peru to California. He spent five years in several Mexican prisons and ended up at Islas des Marias. While in prison he faced torture. He shares his story in hopes of discouraging drug use and in an effort to inform the public to the inhuman treatment he received.
The reader follows along on Tom's journey of self discovery. Along this journey he meets Adriana, who helps to secure his release. Tom passed away at age 65. It was his wish that his story be told. I appreciate that Tom admits his faults and takes responsibility got them. However, no one deserves the treatment he faced. Tom's letters add much to the plot. They make him real to the reader. They give him life. He survives his ordeal by depending on God. I wish this was mandatory reading for all high school students. Perhaps we could prevent some drug abuse before it starts.
Posted December 26, 2010
What is it that makes tales of drug addiction and prison incarceration so fascinating to the average reader? Perhaps it is the fact that none of us wishes to go down that path, and we are plain curious about those who do. Or perhaps it is that we are inspired by a profound sense of compassion to learn more about those who have decided to dwell on the shadier side of life. Whichever motive it is, The Mirror Maze should satisfy both desires.
"I am sitting in a peaceful room telling you an intimate story, one I humbly try to explain accurately. Perhaps you know how difficult it is to tell a story through the pen. My drama from that point lasted six years. Now it is over and if this does not lead to anything but personal therapy, the effort is well spent energy. Also, I have an intense hope that you will understand, and feel a need to transmit this message. I am imagining you in front of me right now. We are friends. You have the time to listen and I the time to talk. We will stop the world for a while and live these images, as we go along." Thus starts the core story of The Mirror Maze, which is the true story of Tom Brungar's downward spiral into alcohol and drug addiction to ultimately becoming involved with a drug cartel. Once apprehended, in order to survive his incarceration, Brungar used his guitar playing and storytelling ability to enable him to endure dehumanizing conditions and prison torture, until his release six years later.
The account is multi-faceted, intertwining accounts of personal transformation, philosophical and spiritual revelations, against a background of sociopolitical issues. The mirror in the title signifies that in which Brungar considered himself, and the maze in the title signifies that through which he had to travel in order to arrive at the exit from his self-induced nightmare. Since cocaine is often served on a mirror, the significance of using such a symbol will, no doubt, not be lost. Ultimately, the transformation attained by Brungar comes in the form of his realization that "[d]uring an experience like this there is only one who can help you, and that is God."
Although the style of this work is not as smooth-flowing as one might like it to be, the memoir is well worth reading, and should prove interesting reading for anyone who is interested in the lessons to be learned from drug addiction and the perils of an overly hectic and self-indulgent lifestyle.