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.