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Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

4.4 68
by Piers Paul Read

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Their plane crashed high in the Andes. Their only shelter was the plane's shattered fuselage, their only supplies a little wine and some bits of candy. In the beginning, there were 32 survivors. Then, only 27, then, 19...and, in the end, 16. This is their story -- the greatest modern epic of catastrophe and human endurance. Those who survived clung to life with


Their plane crashed high in the Andes. Their only shelter was the plane's shattered fuselage, their only supplies a little wine and some bits of candy. In the beginning, there were 32 survivors. Then, only 27, then, 19...and, in the end, 16. This is their story -- the greatest modern epic of catastrophe and human endurance. Those who survived clung to life with extraordinary tenacity...and made the most difficult decision in order to cheat starvation.

"A masterpiece of narrative....It is inconceivable to me that this story could have been better told." --Graham Greene

Editorial Reviews

Philadelphia Inquirer
A great book ... An incredible saga. Read's accomplishment in recording a struggle both physical and spiritual is superb.
John Barkham Reviews
This book will excite you, shock you, at times revolt you, but you are not likely to forget it.
A classic in the literature of survival.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed.

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Chapter One

Uruguay, one of the smallest countries on the South American continent, was founded on the eastern bank of the River Plate as a buffer state between the emerging giants of Brazil and Argentina. Geographically it was a pleasant land, with cattle running wild over immense pasture lands, and its population lived modestly either as merchants, doctors, and lawyers in the city of Montevideo or as proud and restless gauchos on the range.

The history of the Uruguayans in the nineteenth century is filled first with fierce battles for their independence against Argentina and Brazil and then with equally savage civil skirmishes between the Blanco and Colorado parties, the Conservatives from the interior and the Liberals from Montevideo. In 1904 the last Blanco uprising was defeated by the Colorado president, José Batlle y Ordóñez, who then established a secular and democratic state which for many decades was regarded as the most advanced and enlightened in South America.

The economy of this welfare state depended upon the pastoral and agricultural products which Uruguay exported to Europe, and while world prim for wool, beef, and hide remained high, Uruguay remained prosperous but in the course of the 1950s the value of these commodities went down and Uruguay went into a decline. There was unemployment and inflation, which in turn gave rise to social discontent. The civil service was overstuffed and underpaid; lawyers, architects, and engineers -- once the aristocracy of the nation-found themselves with little work and were paid too little for what there was. Many were compelled to choose secondary professions. Only those who owned landin the interior could be sure, of their prosperity. The rest worked for what they could get in an atmosphere Of economic stagnation and administrative corruptiom

As a result, there arose the first and most notable movement of urban guerrilla revolutionaries, the Tupamaros, whose ambition was to bring down the oligarchy which governed Uruguay through the Blanco and Colorado parties. For a while things went their way. They kidnaped and ransomed officials and diplomats and infiltrated the police force, which was set against them. The government called upon the army, which ruthlessly uprooted these urban guerrillas from their middle-class homes. The movement was suppressed; the Tupamaros were locked away.

In the early 1950s a group of Catholic parents, alarmed at the atheistic tendencies of the teachers in the state schools-and dissatisfied with the teaching of English by the Jesuits-invited the Irish Province of the Christian Brothers to start a school in Montevideo. This invitation was accepted, and five Irish lay brothers came out from Ireland by way of Buenos Aires to found the Stella Maris College -- a school for boys between the ages of nine and sixteen -- in the suburb of Carrasco. In May of 1955 classes were started in a house on the rambla which looked out under vast skies over the South Atlantic.

Though they spoke only halting Spanish, these Irish Brothers were well suited to the task they now sought to perform. Uruguay might be far from Ireland, but it too was a small country with an agricultural economy. The Uruguayans ate beef as the Irish ate potatoes, and life here, like life in Ireland, was led at a gentle pace.

Nor was the structure of that Part Of Uruguayan society to which they catered unfamiliar to the Brothers. The families who lived in the pleasant modern houses built amid the pine trees of Carrasco -- the most desirable suburb of Montevideo were mostly large, and there were strong bonds between parents and children which persisted through adolescence into maturity. The affection and respect which the boys felt for their parents was readily transferred to their teachers. This proved enough to maintain good behavior and, at the request of the parents of the their pupils, the Christian Brothers gave up their long-standing use of the disciplinary cane.

It was also customary in Uruguay for young men and women to live with their parents even after they had left School, and it was not until they got married that they left home. The Christian Brothers often asked themselves bow it was that, in a world where acrimony between generations Sometimes seemed to be the spirit Of the age, the citizens at Uruguay -- or at least the residents of Carrasco -- should be spared this conflict. It was as if the torrid vastness of Brazil to the north and the muddy waters of the River Plate to the south and west acted not only as natural barriers but as a protective shell in a cocoon of time.

Not even the Tupamaros troubled the Stella Maris College. The pupils, who came from Catholic families with conservative inclinations, had been sent by their parents to the Christian Brothers because of this order's traditional methods and old-fashioned objectives. Political idealism was more likely to flourish under the Jesuits, who trained the intellect, than under the Christian Brothers, whose aim was to build the character of their boys -- and the generous use of corporal Punishment, which they bad abandoned at the request of the parents, was not the only means to this end at their disposal. The other was rugby football.

The game played at the Stella Maris College was and still is the same as that played in Europe. Two teams of fifteen men face one another on the field, They wear no helmets or protective padding, and there are no substitutes. The objective of each team is to place the oval ball on the try line defended by the other side or to kick the ball over the bar and between the posts of theH-shaped goal. The ball can be kicked, carried, or passed back; the player who holds it can be tackled by an opponent who will throw himself through the air to bring him down -- grabbing him around the neck, the waist, or the legs. The only defense against a tackle is to dodge it...

Alive. Copyright © by Piers Paul Read. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Paul Piers Read is the author of numerous, critically acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, including A Patriot in Berlin (1996), Ablaze: The Story of the Heroes and Victims of Chernobyl (1993), On the Third Day (1989), and A Season in the West (1989). Mr. Read lives in London.

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Alive 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining Classic Alive is the true story of the Uruguayan plane, carrying a team of rugby players and their friends and families that crashed in the middle of the Andes Mountains. The survivors of the initial crash must face the harsh conditions of the mountains, their injuries, and their eventual lack of food. This book explores the deep desire to survive, and the extremes to which people will go to reach it. Hearing about how the survivors grew in their faith of God throughout their ordeal also proved an important and thought provoking theme. Being Catholic myself, like the author, and most of those on the plane, I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. One of the more pleasing traits of this book was its honesty. Alive was actually written shortly after the survivors were rescued due to all of the rumors that were started after the survivor’s rescue. As a result, Alive was written for the sole purpose of truthfully ending the rumors, and giving the survivors some peace. I respect the honesty of the book because even when the survivors must eat the flesh of their dead companions, the story is not embellished to become gruesome, or played down to make it sound like nothing. The only drawback to this book was that it is a long read. Someone interested in reading it should be prepared to be in it for the long haul, but also know that it is well worth it. Alive is reminiscent Gary Paulson’s Hatchet, but more in depth, intense, and really just all around better. The bottom line is that even though Alive was written in the ‘70s, the story and motifs are timeless. I have heard countless references to this book in many classes and thoughtful discussions, leading me to believe that Alive deserves the title of classic. Alive is simply an entertaining and quite unforgettable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alive is the story a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes Mountains and what occurred during the seventy two days they awaited their rescue. This is not a story for the easily faint or queasy, as some pretty disturbing and gruesome actions take place in order for the men to survive for almost two and a half months. The compelling themes of this story include the tests of friendship, the power of faith, the will to survive, the precious gift of life, and love. I loved this book because the author not only told the story, but let the reader bond with the characters and discover their different personalities. You feel their pain, sorrow, joy, sadness, anger, disappointment, and hope just as much as they do. The beginning of the book is a lot of background information and was a bit boring, but after you get through that it is a very enjoyable and exciting read. I recommend this book for anyone looking for a good adventure and can withstand a little bit of blood and gore. This story is truly remarkable teaches the reader how fragile life is and to live every day to the absolute fullest. I promise one will not regret reading this incredible true story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Came in and was smiling evilly. She was a completely naked and beautiful girl. She came over and helped Chloe strip his clothes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"That was fast. Your move?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in "Hey"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When the Fairchild F-227 crashed into the Andes Mountains, the survivors struggled to not only find security in the confines of their plane, but also in their mental state. Knowing that the chances of their rescue were slim to none, the remaining passengers relied on their ingenuity to create food, water, blankets, and a wall to keep out the cold. With the need to survive overcoming the moral and ethical battles of consuming human flesh, everyone still alive did what they had to for the chance of rescue. Believing that their sons and daughters could still be alive, the families of the passengers pooled together their money and searched for remnants of the crash, and possible survivors. This book not only paints a mental picture of what it's like to be stranded in the Andes mountains, but there are also photographs of the many passengers aboard the plane, maps of search parties, and the situations they were forced to live in. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is seeking a life-or-death thriller, or simply just an overall great read.
Rebecca_Berto More than 1 year ago
A story told without sympathetic or judgemental tones ... I couldn't help but feel like I was with these poor sufferers on the mountain. It unravelled as though right before my eyes. And there was so much heart told in such a matter-of-fact way. So much courage. And honesty. It was a lot brutal there for much of their time being lost. But I feel like a better person for having read this story. It is just *something else*, put simply.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing Story Alive is the story about the miraculous survival of 16 passengers aboard the Fairchild FH-227D plane when it crashed in the Andes Mountains on October 13th, 1972. The plane was a chartered flight designated to Chile from Uruguay carrying 45 people including the crew, a rugby team, and their friends, family. More than a quarter of the passengers died in the crash, many others of fatalities and injuries after. With little food and no heat source in the harsh conditions of the mountains, the survivors were forced to feed off of their dead friends in order to survive. It wasn't until two of the survivors took a 10 day hike through the mountains that rescuers realized of the survival of some passengers after they alerted a Chilean arriero. On December 23rd, 1972, the 16 survivors were rescued. I thought that this was a very interesting read that made me realize how precious life is. The author gave a very honest and detailed description of all the events that took place. He got the message across with his vivid descriptions and triggered emotion. It gave me perspective on the story and it was easy to follow just what they experienced. Reading about this tragic event really opened my eyes to be thankful for the things I don't really think about. I liked how the story also showed how brave and clever the survivors had to be in order to withstand any of the conditions they were in. I really enjoyed the pictures that were included in the book because it was helpful to put faces to the names and for me, it made it easier to connect with each of them. The way this story was written kept me on the edge of my seat because who or how anybody survived was never told until the end of the story. Even though the author probably established a connection with the survivors while he was interviewing them, he approaches the events in an unbiased manner. He always let the readers decide for themselves what they thought, which I really liked because he never let himself take part in the story. Although I have very few complaints about this book, I did not enjoy how the author skipped back and forth from the survivors' point of views and the survivors' family's point of view. It was very confusing and was difficult for me to follow, especially since there were the names of the plane crash victims to remember. When the author included the family member's names and their story, it made it challenging to keep track of everybody. I think that this book is suitable for ages fifteen and up (highschoolers) because cannibalism is a delicate subject and the way it is described could be traumatizing to younger ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book! Reading about this tragic event opened my eyes to be thankful for what I have. Having to eat their loved ones, fight injuries and sicknesses, and endure frigid weather are just a few of the hardships they had to battle. You watch how they grow in their faith with God and learn to trust one another. As you read the book, you grow to know each and every character. You learn about their families and their beliefs and you truly feel like you know them. I really like how the author wrote the book. He got the message across with a lot of detail and it caused a lot of emotion for me, which I like when I read. I like to feel like I'm there. If you want to read a great story about a plane that crashed in the Andes and how they survived, you should read this book. It will change your view forever.
super-pelo-rojo More than 1 year ago
An interesting and though provoking true story. Alive by Piers Paul Read is an educational book detailing the struggles and sacrifices of a group of people who are stranded in the Andes Mountains. Based on a true story, the book focuses on a group of Uruguayan Rugby players who are flying home October 12, 1972 when the plane they are on crashes and leaves them stranded in the Andes. Out of the forty-five people who were on the plane thirteen died in the initial crash, later an avalanche killed eight more, when they were finally rescued after seventy days only sixteen survived. Faced with the threat of starvation the survivors had to eat the bodies of their friends. A major theme in this book is mans will to survive. No matter what challenges were thrown their way, crash, avalanche, starvation they survived. One thing I liked about this book, and another theme, is man’s ingenuity, faced with starvation, lack of food, water, warmth, and shelter the survivors of the crash had to use their limited resources to stay alive, they did this by dividing the work and making small devices that would help them survive. Some things I liked about this book was just the story, all their misfortunes, and how they were able to rise up so to say and deal with all the challenges set before them. Another reason I enjoyed the book was because it made me think. As I was reading it I couldn’t stop imagining myself inside the plane, part of the group. I kept thinking what would I have done in that situation, what would I have done different. I believe someone should read this to be informed of the struggles that happened to those people and see the sacrifices they had to go through in order to survive, as well as realize that however unlikely it is something like this can happen to you.
rocky34 More than 1 year ago
Alive tells the fascinating story of a plane crash. It starts off telling of a rugby team called the Old Christians, that needed to fly across the Andes mountains to play teams in Argentina. During their flight with a total of forty five passengers the plane unexpectedly crashes and they are stranded amidst the below freezing, snow covered, remote peaks of the Andes mountains. Despite the efforts of families and search teams, the victims of the crash are forced to either die on the mountain or find a way home. Piers Paul tells about the families and the outstanding struggle of the victims (a rugby team and other passengers). He gives every important detail of the families' efforts to save their loved ones in the crash: they call search teams, they preform their own searches and they keep the victims in their prayers. Paul also tells of how clever and brave the victims are: they have to figure out their own shelter, food and escape routes and try not to fight with each other, in the meantime. Some of the victims write letters, some take pictures, pray or sing and some just sleep and eat. I would say that this is a story of how far some people will go for love. It shows that these families would do whatever it takes to be together again. The main themes of the story seem to be family, bravery, courage, sacrifice and strength. I liked how it was written, for the most part, because I felt that throughout the story i knew what was going on with the victims and with the families at home. Also, I liked how it kept me on the edge of my seat. I was reading this book for hours at a time because I just couldn't stop and I don't even like reading that much. The only thing i didn't like was that at times, it was a little hard to keep track of all the characters. I could keep track of all the victims, but when he started talking about all of the different moms and friends and sisters it was difficult to remember who was who. Other than that, i thought Piers Paul wrote in every necessary detail of the crash and its victims. You should read this book because it is extremely inspiring and well written. The fact that it is a true story is unbelievable. It is incredible what the survivors had to go through. There aren't a lot of stories like this one because it isn't every day that a you find plane crash in the unforgiving, Andes with survivors. This book is like nothing I have ever read or heard of. It will make you cry, laugh, and it will keep you turning the pages until it's over. I really hope you read this book and I definitely give it a 10/10. It is one of my favorite books. Five stars!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing! I love how it stays to the true story with no elaboration and yet is so compelling all on its own!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book by chance years ago, and my interest in the survivors and their story took off. At that time I would have rated it as many stars as I could, but now knock a star off only because I read Miracle in the Andes and think it tells the story much better. Then again, it is written by a survivor who has his own personal take on the story and, since he waited many many years to write it, has had time to put the whole situation into perspective. The author of Alive wrote the story based on interviews and pieced them together soon after the rescue. So there is still a feel of the excitement of youthful survival, whereas Miracle in the Andes is a more mature and thoughtful memoir. I would recommend both books, but if you had to choose between the two, I would go wit Miracle in the Andes, hands down. Beautiful and inspiring story, it will lead you to want more. I researched and found many pictures and video clips after reading both books, but still want more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alive was one of the greatest books I have ever read. I loved almost every inch of it especially all of the in depth detail used to describe their circumstances throughout the book. The only problem arose in the middle of the story because it dragged on a bit with continuous details about eating the dead and having constipation. I loved the rest of the book especially the irony in the beginning when one of he players got on the intercom to tell everyone to grab a parachute because they were going to crash into the mountains. What I took from this story was mostly that, as humans, we can do anything we need to do, but not If we want to do it seeing as no one wanted to eat human flesh they just had to. I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who loves a good survival story because it truly is one of the best survival stories I have ever read and the best part about it was that Alive is a true story. All in all it was great book with a great beginnings long middle and excellently detailed escape for help by two young men. I would also recommend Into Thin Air, Miracle in the Andes, and Left for dead because they are also suvival books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Alive, is a great complying story about the group of Old Christians rugby team, who crashed in the Andes Mountains in a Uruguayan Air Force plane, on their way to Chile. After the wreck of the plane, half of the forty-five had survived, after the next 2 weeks only 16 of them where left. The un-thinkable happened when they ran out of food in the plane, cannibalism. The survivors got tired of just waiting around for something to happen, so they sent Canessa and Parrado two of the strongest out to look for help. Finally after six days they found a village, not soon after that, helicopters were sent to find the other fourteen survivors. Seventy-two days in blizzard cold weather, avalanches, and starvation. the boys where finally safe. This book is an excited journey that takes you through what happens. It seems like you are there with them in their need of help. It's a good experience, shows you how much we take for granted in our daily lives. This book was great, it took awhile to get into, the first 30 or so pages are very dull. People should read this book because; it's thrilling, shocking moments, the friendship that out shown. The book draws you in, the last one hundred pages you won't be able to put the book down, that's how exciting it is! I do recommend reading this book, it's an adventure and survival book for you people who like those kind of books! It teaches you to never give up on your dreams! It's a great book! I hope you will enjoy it as much as it did!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alive is the story of the Old Christians rugby team from Uruguay that crashed deep in the Andes Mountains and their fight for survival that included doing what many people would consider the unthinkable. The incredible bravery and endurance displayed out of disparity by the boys are evident through the entire story. Many a good moral lesson can be learned out of this book such as how many of us are quite blessed and not grateful for the everyday luxuries that many of us take for granted in our society. The book is quite factual in tone and can be easily mistaken for a boring story. This only occurs because, as Read points out in his introduction, the survivors felt as though the details of their story should not be in any way exaggerated or brought out to be more than they really were. They also felt that the story itself is powerful enough that nothing extra was needed to make it sound better (which Read does an incredible job of). I personally loved every aspect in this book with the exception of the explicit details that the author went into regarding the parent's search for the kids which I feel were not entirely needed and may be extremely uninteresting to other readers. If you do buy this book, then you should definately find one of the versions containing pcitures of the boys and other people that flew aboard the fairchild as well as some of their other experiences. The add tremendously to the experience of reading this book. One should definately read this to better grasp the highly unknown aspect of human nature that is our survival gear as well as to read just an overall fantastic story. If you loved this book as much as I did, the two books below are similar stories that bring about relatively similar themes. Enjoy!!!
Late_In_Life_Wife More than 1 year ago
A synopsis isn't truly necessary here. If you are reading this review, you already have a vague sense of the content . What you don't know, is how it's going to make you feel and you will feel it, believe me. You will feel yourself in the center of that glacier. Piers spared no detail. Those details are, at times, very hard to take. Nando Parrado once said "You will see and do things over there that you would NEVER imagine yourself seeing and doing" I "thought" I knew what he meant. Only after reading "Alive" did the depths of those words truly take hold of me. It cannot be an easy thing to put anguish into words, but Piers managed to do so. Not only the anguish of the boys, but of their families as well. The highs are as heart wrenching as the lows. You can imagine being there with Carlos Paez Vilaro when his Son's name is read off the survivor list. This is only a small portion of the emotions this book evokes. The spirit, the will of these boys being raised and dashed repeatedly. The turmoil, the lost hope and even mistrust that sometimes arose between them. The faith they had in their expeditionary party. It's all here, no stone is left unturned. This book gives you something that will stay with you always. Even when all hope is lost, life is still worth living. I am so glad I picked this book up. You will be glad you did too. I must offer the warning of graphic content. I thought I knew what to expect in that department, but I was wrong. It can get to you. You don't physically "see" it, but through Piers's words, your imagination will paint a fairly vivid picture. Until you have walked in these boy's shoes, (picture the shoes your now wearing in waist deep snow for 72 days.) you honestly have no right to judge the boys. The dreaded "C" word does NOT apply here. They took no lives, they only did what they had to do to stay alive. "Was it worth it?" You may ask yourself. These 16 survivors have now grown to over 100 strong. There is no better testament to life than that. Read the book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Alive, by Piers Paul Read, was an admirable story of a plane of rugby players who crashed in the Andes and were forced to survive ten unforgiving weeks in a desolate snow-covered region. Although the story itself is noble and intense, the book wasn't my favorite. I loved the story, and respected the people who were a part of it; however the read altogether was lackluster and tedious. The chapters seemed to drone on and on, and it seemed to me as though the author simply copied and pasted each chapter into the next. After a while, I got tired of reading about the living eating the deceased. There were many fascinating parts of the story in which I was eager to find out what would happen next, but the boring parts seemed to overrule these. I feel like the book could have been a lot shorter and still gotten the point across, in fact I probably would have been more willing to read it had it not been solely about people eating each other. And so, I would not recommend the book, but rather the story itself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After leaving Uruguay for a rugby tournament in Chile, a team of men along with forty or so other people (including friends and family) find themselves stranded in the middle of the Andes. Their flight crashed due to powerful winds, cloudy weather conditions, and misjudgment by the pilot. Although most died instantly in the wreck, the survivors turned to every means of survival fighting frostbite, starvation, dehydration, injuries obtained in the crash, and even insanity. Alive is a story of love. When it came down to it, the love for family and friends was the only motivation for survival after all hope was lost. Leadership and teamwork are other very prominent themes of the book that saved lives. Without the leadership of certain individuals and the teamwork of every survivor, no one would have lived through the seventy days of isolation. I really like the story this book enlightens because it is so unique and inspiring. It was such a life-altering event and was very well told. The book had good detail and imagery with gory and stomach-churning events. Some parts of Alive get slow and excessively in depth for their importance and are hard to follow, but it's an overall easy read that draws the reader in. I would strongly recommend Alive for thrill seeking readers who like stories of adventure and survival. It inspires one to live life to the fullest and appreciate every aspect of life. Even when times seem hard, hope and determination should never be lost.