Rated Reads

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why

by Amanda Ripley

Rated: Moderate

Laurence Gonzales wrote a riveting book entitled Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why for those of us that enjoy going out to meet Mother Nature head on. Amanda Ripley has now written a similarly enthralling text for when Mother Nature (or a terrorist) comes to meet us. Thanks to the multitude of disaster survivors willing to submit to yet another interview, we can see what these events seem like from the inside.

Response to traumatic incidents typically involves three phases: Denial, Deliberation, and The Decisive Moment. Ms. Ripley divides her chapters to fill three sections of the book with those headers. In this fashion, we are led distinctly through the minds, feelings, and reactions of persons who have lived through tsunamis, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, hostage situations, airplane crashes, etc. In each case, these are regular, everyday people (not thrill-seekers) who find themselves suddenly engulfed by water, wind, bullets, flames, or smoke.

The writer’s style is very fluid and smooth; even detailed descriptions of these phenomena do not evoke fear or dread, but rather makes the reader feel like a detached onlooker. We are naturally led to wonder how we would perform, and what we can do to improve our odds of survival, instead of making the decision to simply bolt our doors shut and never leave our homes.

Rated: Moderate. Three occurrences of strong language, and just under 20 instances of mild to moderate language. All usages except two mild terms are direct quotes from interviews. There are no sexual references or events.

— Reviewed by Craig Smith

Craig Smith is chief medical officer of Tacoma Cat Hospital. In addition to providing book reviews on Rated Reads, he podcasts about feline health issues through iTunes and www.tacomacat.com.

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  • The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why
  • by Amanda Ripley
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: