Account of Plane Crash Has Much to Teach

I don’t often write reviews, especially of adult literature and even less often do I share them on this blog. However, as local history and an examination of the some of the cultural and political transitions our province has faced over the last century, I recommend the following book for high school.

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Into the Abyss: How a Deadly Plane Crash Changed the Lives of a Pilot, a Politician, a Criminal and a Cop by Carol Shaben

There are a few reasons why I would be predisposed to appreciate this book. First, it happened in my neck of the woods just a month before I moved here. Secondly, at the end of his career as a military transport pilot, my father flew Hercules aircraft for 435 Squadron, one of the aircraft and the squadron that was deployed in the search and rescue effort. And then, after his retirement from the military, my dad worked for the Ministry of Transport as an inspector (a job he didn’t like very much except that it allowed him to continue to fly). He was still with MOT when this plane went down. (I’m eagerly awaiting a conversation with him.)

When I picked up the book, which I did for just those reasons listed above, I expected a dry, factual report on the crash, the events leading up to it and the follow-up. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a page-turner. Shaben crafts the book beautifully, with good pacing and well-drawn characters.

She does not, however succumb to sensationalism or judgement. She presents a balanced, objective account of the facts despite the emotional weight of her father being one of the survivors. It is a testament to her depiction of her father as an honest, humble and compassionate man that he clearly raised a daughter who could be unbiased and forgiving in the face of an accident that could have killed him.

Instead, it is clear that the blame lies across a broad spectrum: from the historical culture of the northern frontier to the regulated but competitive commercialism of our modern society. Shaben portrays each individual involved as a truly human, thus complex mixture of qualities struggling with his or her own journey in life.

Although well crafted, this is not a novel. There is no pat denouement. Don’t read this for a thrill – danger and survival is not always exciting – or for the satisfaction of watching the wrongdoer get his just deserts.

There are no villains and the hero is, after all, only human.

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