“On November 5, 1942, a US cargo plane slammed into the Greenland Ice Cap. Four days later, the B-17 assigned to the search-and-rescue mission became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed. Miraculously, all nine men on board survived, and the US military launched a daring rescue operation. But after picking up one man, the Grumman Duck amphibious plane flew into a severe storm and vanished.
Frozen in Time tells the story of these crashes and the fate of the survivors, bringing vividly to life their battle to endure 148 days of the brutal Arctic winter, until an expedition headed by famed Arctic explorer Bernt Balchen brought them to safety. Mitchell Zuckoff takes the reader deep into the most hostile environment on earth, through hurricane-force winds, vicious blizzards, and subzero temperatures.
Moving forward to today, he recounts the efforts of the Coast Guard and North South Polar Inc. – led by indefatigable dreamer Lou Sapienza – who worked for years to solve the mystery of the Duck’s last flight and recover the remains of its crew.
Thoughts: Mitchell Zuckoff’s Frozen in Time is quite intense for being a nonfiction account of survival and discovery. Told in two perspectives, a reader gets a first-hand account of both the fight for survival experienced by the crew of the B-17 as well as eyewitness testimony to the present-day recovery mission. There are no real surprises, as one knows how both stories are going to end before ever starting the book, but that does not prevent Mr. Zuckoff from using the natural suspense created by such stories to his advantage. He writes each story in such a way that makes a reader doubt the story’s historically documented ending, capturing and holding a reader’s interest. As a result, this six-hour audiobook feels so much shorter because it is the type of story that deters being stopped or set aside for a few hours.
Frozen in Time may be non-fiction, but it reads like a novel. Mr. Zuckoff’s writing style is perfect for engaging a reader. He capitalizes on the built-in tension of the crash and fight for survival, as well as the innate need for humans to solve puzzles, to hide the drier portions of the story, those elements of research or history necessary for readers to understand the context of the real-life drama. He balances the need for detailed descriptions and explanations with the intense and personal stories of suffering and heroism without going overboard on either element. Under his pen, true World War II heroes get their due, and modern-day heroes shine. Better yet, he does not gloss over nor embellish the more disturbing elements of the story to improve his narrative. He presents both stories as is, using letters, journal entries, and other first-hand accounts to let the survivors and discoverers speak for themselves and bundles it all up in an easy-to-read-and-enjoy format.
Even though author-narrators can be a hit-or-miss experience, Mr. Zuckoff’s unique perspective as not only the researcher behind the main story of the lost Grumman Duck but also his participation in its rediscovery make him best suited to narrate his tale. His pride at being included among the Coast Guard’s and North South Polar, Inc.’s joint efforts and his own direct contributions to the solution to the mystery is palpable, and he has every right to be proud. His experiences lend his research a more personal nature, making the story of the survivors come to life in a manner that might not exist with a third-party narrator. His voice is pleasant as well, creating an enjoyable listening experience with a narrative that feels more like a fictional novel than a real life-or-death survival situation.
Frozen in Time confirms the moniker of the Greatest Generation, as the survivors of the B-17 so many decades ago not only did what they had to do to survive, they did not think that their exploits were all that outstanding. Their determination to help one another, and their refusal to give up speaks volumes about their commitment to their duty and to each other. The Coast Guard and North South Polar joint expedition honors that mindset by their own determination to succeed against the odds. Mr. Zuckoff brings both stories together into one well-written and enticing book that makes readers run the full gamut of emotional involvement. With its historical context and modern-day search-and-recovery mission as well as its quick pacing and easy-going narrative, Frozen in Time appeals to a wide audience and would make a great gift to share with others.
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