When I started reading this book, my son asked, “Is Rustad as good as Krakauer”? That’s setting the bar very high. Comparison with Krakauer’s Into the Wild, about the death of Christopher McCandless in Alaska, is inevitable. Justin Shetler travelled to India seeking adventure and “enlightenment”. He disappeared.
Shetler was a man of extremes. He was sexually abused as a child and again as a teenager, and received only minimal help in dealing with the terrible trauma of these experiences. I think his risk taking, use of hallucinogens and extreme physical training reflect the profound need for safety and escape from emotional pain.
“Trauma” is much discussed recently. “Trauma informed therapy” is offered by various mental health professionals.
I think the bottom-line message of Lost in the Valley of Death is that SOME THINGS CAN’T BE FIXED. I feel terribly sad for both Shetler and his grieving family and friends.
Rustad is very good. I’ll have to look at other his books before I’ll decide if he matches Krakauer.
Tony Hillerman (1925 – 2008) is one of my favorite authors. His books prove that novels and mysteries need not be placed in two separate categories. I can’t define “literature”, but I know it when I read it.
Talking Mysteries was published in 1991, when Hillerman was about halfway through his eighteen book Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mystery series. He had already received the award he valued most, the Special Friends of the Dineh from the Navajo Nation Council.
Talking Mysteries is the kind of book publishers throw together when they realize they have a winner in their midst. A few interviews, a short story. Some commentary…
Who was Ernie Bulow? A man of many trades (including trader), he wrote (including a book called Navajo Taboos and two other books of “conversations”) , taught and practiced the arts of photography and silver smithing.
The icing on this cake is a set of sketches from Navajo artist Ernest Franklin, who illustrated some of Hillerman’s novels. On line, I found the even more exciting paintings by Franklin. My thanks to Parrish Books for the thumbnail image reproduced above.
Hillerman was a prolific writer, and we are fortunate he wrote an autobiography called Seldom Disappointed: A Memoir seven years before his death. I recommend it highly.