Review of hearts of Courage by John M. Tippets
This book tells the story of a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness and the subsequent month-long survival of four of the plane's six occupants. The story is told by the son of one of the survivors. It's a compelling story but one that might have been better had the story been handled a little differently.
While little known outside of Alaska, the accident and survival story is a memorable event in Alaskan history. The plane, a Lockheed Electra (the same kind of plane Amelia Earhart flew on her around the world attempt), crashed near the summit of a mountain that rose just over 1700 feet MSL The accident happened in January 1943. There were five passengers and one pilot. Who survived and how takes up the lion's share of this thin book (only 143 pages including the appendix).
The author makes a commendable effort in telling his father's story and that of the other passengers, but he elected to use his father's own words to tell the story. There is a brief foreword and introduction written in third person, then the author switches to first person and let's his dad tell the rest of the story. There are a couple of problems with this method. For one, parts of the book read as though the various scenes were assembled rather than written as a narrative. Another problem is that by telling the story in first person the reader doesn't have an opportunity to learn more about the other survivors or of the search and rescue efforts. As a result, the story feels incomplete.
How they survived the bitter cold and starvation keeps the story moving along. There are plenty of near disasters and close calls as the author's father, Joe Tippets, and another man leave the crash scene in search of help for themselves and the two men left behind. There is also a brief chapter describing what Alta Tippets, Joe's wife, was experiencing as she waited for news about her husband. The narrow focus, however, dampens the drama.
I do give the author credit for his extensive use of images, diagrams, and archival material. The amount of time and effort put into the book is immediately apparent. Though I'm not sure I agree with the book's high price of $19.95. I think the book would have benefited from a lower price and an eBook option.