Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival
by Joe Simpson
Paperback- $12.94

Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. ...

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  "This was really hard to read" by chkahn12 (see profile) 05/16/10

No one in our book club liked it. It was a "guys book" and we also don't like memoirs.

 
  "Touchiing the Void " by nbaker (see profile) 02/28/18

I don't know when I have read a book that left me so emotionally exhausted. And knowing (or worrying about) the fact that my resting heart rate only averages around 50, yet while reading this book I could actually FEEL my heart pumping in my throat, it left me equally physically exhausted. I'll start out by saying that I'm afraid of heights -- deathly afraid of heights. So why would I read a true story about two men attempting to climb a face of the Peruvian Andes not yet conquered? Honestly -- only because my daughter asked me to read it. I opened the front cover and in the first paragraph I found my battle plan. Instead of thinking outside the box, I was going to have to teach myself to read inside the tent.

The first memorable lines written by Joe (the main narrator) said, "There is a peculiar anonymity about being in tents. Once the zipper is closed and the outside world barred from sight, all sense of location disappears." So I tried to read the story without visual shadows forming in my head but it became virtually impossible.

I'm not going to tell you the story. Let's just say that two men go up a mountain and when you are fighting a natural geographic formation placed there by God, the odds aren't always in your favor. A battle ensues, a deadly battle, and then the battle of wits and courage begins.

I started the book with a deep-seated feeling that all mountain climbers must have a death wish. Do they just climb until they fail? Is the purpose to find the mountain that can beat you? There came a point in the book where I began to detect a sense of complacency in their actions and I knew what was coming. (Aren't we all guilty of that? We perform an action so familiar that we do it without thinking and then something goes awry and we're left wondering how it happened.)

Halfway through the book, I began developing an enormous sense of admiration for these men, especially Joe. For a brief moment I could focus on the men and not their location. I was consumed by their resolve and commitment to continue to move forward. Looking back or regretting the situation in which they found themselves was never an option; each just moved into "Plan B", and when that failed, they reverted to "Plan C" and so forth. Joe wrote, "I had one choice: I could slowly descend until I could find a way out, or die in the process. I would meet death rather than wait for it to come to me. There was no going back now, yet inside I was screaming to stop."

Baby steps were the key to success. Joe said that surviving that first disastrous night was the hardest thing he had ever done, and thinking about it he felt a surge of confidence build inside him. There was still a lot to fight for. (We should all be so open minded to see that winning even the smallest victory in life gives us confidence to fight our next battle.)

For Joe and Simon the "void" was the black abyss high on a mountaintop, the uncertainty of what you can't see or feel and no resources other than yourself with which to fight the unknown. In reality we all have our "void" to fight, perhaps several, and at different stages in our life. My void is called Leukemia. I've been told its name, I've seen the proof, but like Joe and Simon the disaster (or diagnosis) is behind me. I can't let it change my path in life or the goals I have sat for myself. My direction has to be forward and upward and yet it's inevitable that some days will be downhill. But I've discovered that even a descent can be the most difficult climb of a lifetime. Fortitude, courage and strength doesn't come in big strides, but in baby steps -- some hardly measurable -- but when tallied together, they equal progress.

I started by thinking all mountain climbers had a death with - trying to find that one mountain that would beat them. I ended by thinking that all mountain climbers are on a quest to prove that no mountain can break their spirit. I still never want to be a mountain climber and it will be awhile before I read a book that even mentions snow, but I closed the book a stronger and wiser person. I had a touch more courage than the days before. For all readers, friends and family -- I hope you face your void, whatever it may be, with courage and a positive outlook and with the knowledge that there is ALWAYS something to fight for.

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