Saturday, December 15, 2012


Story Description:
Random House|October, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-36022-9

On an icy night in October 1984, a Piper Navajo commuter plane carrying 9 passengers crashed in the remote wilderness of northern Alberta, killing 6 people.  Four survived: the rookie pilot, a prominent politician, a cop, and the criminal he was escorting to face charges.  Despite the poor weather, Erik Vogel, the 24-year-old pilot, was under intense pressure to fly – a situation not uncommon to pilots working for small airlines. Overworked and exhausted, he feared losing his job if he refused to fly.  Larry Shaben, the author’s father and Canada’s first Muslim Cabinet Minister, was commuting home after a busy week at the Alberta Legislature.  After Paul Archambault, a drifter wanted on an outstanding warrant, boarded the plane, rookie Constable Scott Deschamps decided, against RCMP regulations, to remove his handcuffs – a decision that profoundly impacted the men’s survival. As they fought through the night to stay alive, the dividing lines of power, wealth and status were erased and each man was forced to confront the precious and limited nature of his existence.  The survivors forged unlikely friendships and through them found strength and courage to rebuild their lives.  Into the Abyss is a powerful narrative that combines in-depth reporting with sympathy and grace to explore how a single, tragic event can upset our assumptions and become a catalyst for transformation. 
My Review: 
Into the Abyss is the true account of a plane crash that occurred on October 19th, 1984 piloted by then twenty-four-year-old, Erik Vogel.  Erik worked for Wapiti Airlines, a small outfit that flew daily flights around the Alberta area, over Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife and often had the same passengers each week. 
Erik was severely overworked, lacked sleep, and was pushed to his limits fearing he’d lose his job if he didn’t take all flights given to him.  That fateful night was snowy and stormy with nine passengers on board and including Erik, made ten. 
A relatively new and young RCMP officer was on board that night escorting a criminal, Paul Archambault on an outstanding warrant.  It is against RCMP regulations to remove a prisoner’s handcuffs during a flight but for whatever reason, RCMP Officer Scott Deschamps decided to remove those cuffs for the flight.  After the plane crashed, not only did removing those cuffs most likely prevent Paul from having his hands amputated at the wrists, but turned his prisoner into a hero.  
The author of the book, Carol Shaben’s father, Larry was on that flight that night.  He was a prominent Cabinet Minister with the Canadian government and one of only four survivors. 
Ms. Shaben’s writing is clear, concise and so powerfully written that you won’t be able to put the book down.  Even at 311pages, I read it in one sitting with only tea breaks in between!  Into the Abyss is a story I will be recommending to my friends and keeping as part of my permanent collection.

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