In 2010 a mine in the desert region of Chile collapsed, trapping 33 miners for 39 long days. Why? In order to make the mine profitable, its owners had neglected safety precautions. Although the miners, at least to some extent, realized the risks, they chose to work there because the relatively high salaries made it possible for them to have middle-class lifestyles.
Tobar, who bases his story on extensive interviews, helps the reader to know the individual miners. These were ordinary men, varying greatly in age and personality. They did not think of themselves as heroes. Often they worked together well as a team, but sometimes they argued among themselves or acted against the best interests of the group. In their daily prayer meetings, they confessed to a variety of sins. Yet somehow they found the strength to survive with almost no food, usually sharing the morsels fairly, enduring almost unbearable heat and humidity. For seventeen days, they had no contact with the outside world and did not know if anyone would ever reach them.
The chapters alternate among the miners, their rescuers, and the miners’ loved ones – wives, mistresses, ex-wives, parents, siblings, and children. These people camped outside the mine, pushing the rescuers not to give up and hoping against hope that the miners could return home alive.
When the rescuers made contact with the miners, the ordeal was far from over. The rescue effort was long and difficult. Even after the rescuers supplied food and met some of the miners’ needs, the men continued to suffer psychologically. Then, amid the joy of return to their loved ones, they faced the totally new – and often disturbing – experience of being celebrities.
If you enjoy stories about ordinary people surviving against all odds, you’ll want to read Deep Down Dark.
Helen Snow, retired from Information Services