There was a moment when reading Mitchell Zuckoff‘s latest book, Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II, that I crossed over from a mildly interested reader to a rabid page turner. I’m pretty sure it was in the first chapter, if not the first couple pages.
Frozen in Time is, as its title only slightly exaggerates, an epic tale. Spanning from World War Two until the present, it is a work of non-fiction, to be sure, but no less gripping and exciting. Set in Greenland (and not the warm part, because there isn’t one), Zuckoff tells the story of the rescue of downed airmen during the winter of 1942. What begins as the search-and-rescue of a missing cargo plane soon becomes a fight for survival as a B-17 involved in the search slams into a glacier, stranding its nine passengers on the ice. A second daring rescue by a Grumman Duck amphibious plane results in another crash, and the nine airmen are forced to wait the winter out in the remains of their destroyed plane.
Heroic efforts by both rescuers and rescued are the subject of Zuckoff’s story. There are crevices, unstable glaciers, planes landing blind on the ice, hot wired radio equipment, frostbite, dog sled teams, hypothermia, fear of polar bears, and, always, snow. Snow, snow, and more snow. Taking place in the past and the present, Zuckoff weaves in a modern story about the efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard and North South Polar to find and recover the remains of the Grumman Duck lost during the rescue effort.
After reading Lost in Shangri-La last year, I was more than impressed that Zuckoff was able to raise his game. His dedication is admirable, as well. Asked by Lou Sapienza, head of North South Polar, if Jon Krakauer (the author of Into Thin Air) wouldn’t be a better choice to write the book, Zuckoff replies with natural aplomb: you haven’t got Krakauer; you’ve got me. However, it soon becomes clear that Zuckoff’s confidence is as much hope as it is faith as the expedition to recover the Grumman Duck hits financial setbacks and Zuckoff puts expenses for the trip–about which he is writing a book–on his credit card and then on a second mortgage to his home.
It’s an investment that pays off and in grand conclusion. A modern-day treasure hunt, not for gold, but for men lost in the greatest quest–to save their fellow-man–Frozen in Time is a fast and enjoyable read, full of suspense, mystery, tragedy, and victory. I can’t wait to see what Zuckoff will write next.
[Review previously published at Attack of the Books!]
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- Book Review: Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff (theeclecticbookworm.wordpress.com)
- Author Feature | Mitchell Zuckoff (attackofthebooks.com)
- Frozen in Time (shelflove.wordpress.com)
- How I Wrote It: Mitchell Zuckoff, on “Frozen In Time” (omnivoracious.com)
- ‘Frozen in Time’: The fate of brave airmen, locked in the ice (seattletimes.com)