Sunday, January 11, 2015

Héctor Tobar's Deep Down Dark: A Review by Sandra C. Muñoz


Sometimes extraordinary things happen to ordinary people. On August 5, 2010, thirty-three Chilean miners were suddenly and unexpectedly trapped thousands of feet underground when an inconceivably humongous slab of rock collapsed and blocked all of the exits and tunnels that would have lead the men to safety. In Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that Set Them Free, Pulitzer-prize winner Héctor Tobar recounts the journey, the lives, and the rescue of these men and, to an understandably lesser degree, their families and the persons committed to finding them beneath the earth.
Photo of Hector Tobar by Patrice Normand
It is no easy task to fluidly tell the stories of thirty-three different individuals, all facing the very real possibility of death but Tobar does a masterful job of focusing on the most compelling of the stories while also providing a complete and full picture of the experience as they all lived it. In total, the men spent 69 days underground but for 17 of those days, they had no idea if they would survive, if anyone would ever find them, or if their lives would end in darkness, extreme humidity, and painful hunger. For 17 days, the men only had each other. It is these days where Tobar particularly excels, successfully conveying the despair and the direness that challenged each of these men, the families that rallied to assure their survival, and the rescuers that drilled hole after hole to find them.

It is amazing, unfathomable really, that after finally being found on August 22nd and announcing to the world they were all okay, the men then spent another 52 days waiting for the day when they could finally be lifted out of their prison. Yes, the miners had food, entertainment, the ability to communicate with family members, and even access to the massive media coverage of their plights. But nearly two months is an extremely long time and Tobar again expertly relays the politics, the greed, and the growing desperation that permeated those underground caves as the men waited and waited and waited.

It is clear that this is an extremely well-researched undertaking. And even though we all know the ending, Tobar remarkably keeps the reader at suspense and desperate for a rescue that everyone knows is coming. These are the stories of men and families that lived and survived an extraordinary experience in our current era of mass media. The experiences were not always pretty and, thankfully, Tobar does not shy away from portraying a realistic and complete picture of the challenges faced by all of them including the post-rescue madness that ensued. With this book, Tobar does the men and their heroism justice.

Photo by Maritza Alvarez
Sandra C. Muñoz has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. She is the owner of the Law Offices of Sandra C. Muñoz located in East Los Angeles. For over 15 years, Sandra has worked on cases involving employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. She has been featured in the Daily Journal, written for the California Business Law magazine, and participated on various education panels. Her creative work is featured in the play Black Butterfly, Jaguar Girl, Piñata Woman and Other Superhero Girls, Like Me by Luis Alfaro. 

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