Book Review: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
I was really captivated by Ralston’s plight while seeing 127 Hours. It also didn’t helped that Ralston was played by James Franco and the film was directed by Danny Boyle. After seeing the film, I was curious to learn more about what Ralston had gone through.
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Was it true that he had a glimpse of his future son that gave him courage? Is it true that he spoke into his video camera during his entrapment? Why had he made such a fundamentally foolish mistake in not informing anybody of his whereabouts? All of these questions were answered in the book, as well as much more detail about Ralston’s personality and background.
In fact, after reading the book, I’m not entirely surprised that Ralston ended up in this situation. In the book, he recalls other near-death experiences he had while participating in other outdoor recreation (from almost drowning in the Grand Canyon to being buried under an avalanche). Ralston’s whole life has been (and continues to be) about pushing himself in the outdoors, often in ways that others may consider foolish or overly risky. Moreover, Ralston was no stranger to solo adventure. At the time of his entrapment, he was attempting to accomplish the first solo ascents of all “fourteeners” (mountains higher than 14,000 feet) in Colorado.
Did he leave the canyon a changed man–aside from the obvious loss of his right arm? Spiritually, Ralston matured–coming to a new appreciation for life and his loved ones. What the experience didn’t do was dampen his enthusiasm for outdoor pursuits. Working with prosthetic and climbing companies, Ralston designed a prosthetic arm for himself so he could continue rock climbing and mountain climbing.
The book is surprisingly well written. After all, just because you have the guts to amputate your own arm and survive for five days in a canyon with limited food and water doesn’t mean you’ll be able to tell your story eloquently. But Ralston (who was an engineer before quitting corporate life to pursue the outdoor life in Colorado) seems to be a true Renaissance man–crafting a well-rounded, eloquent and often amusing account of his life, philosophy and the accident changed him forever.
Finally, I must mention that the book includes a collection of full-color photographs of Ralston before, during and after the accident. I had a rather morbid fascination with these photos but they really did add to the story. It was amazing to see the exact place where this took place and what Ralston looked like during his entrapment. I also need to give a shout-out to the filmmakers for seeming to recreate Ralston’s predicament, clothing, and equipment down to the smallest detail.