You have survived the crisis—trauma, disease, accident, or war—now how do you get your life back?
A traumatic or near-death experience can change every aspect of the survivor’s being. It can erase the body’s learned adaptations, and in some cases, those who live through such a shock suffer more in the aftermath than they did during the actual crisis. In all cases, they must work hard to reinvent themselves. Combining harrowing tales of survival with lucid explanations of the science behind the body’s reactions to trauma, Surviving Survival offers a valuable and “intriguing argument about the adaptability of the human spirit” (National Geographic Traveler).
Gonzales (Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why), a National Magazine Award winning journalist, tackles a difficult narrative: the near-deadly encounter and the life that must be lived afterward. The people whose stories he presents have endured trials ranging from entrapment in the jaws of a ferocious crocodile to the threat from an abusive husband. Gonzales follows these traumas into their aftermath, where the mind continues, often torturously, to repeat the incident. Gonzales, trying in part to identify common factors of postsurvival success, finds that often it is one's ability to act (go back to school, learn to play golf, motorcycle cross-country), but it is also, he suggests, the brain's wiring that makes it easier for some than for others to adapt. As in Deep Survival, Gonzales intersperses journalistic case studies with information about the brain and its responses to trauma. Such juxtapositions at times seem contrived and at odds with the emotionally charged experiences the author aims to convey. In fact, what emerges from all of the stories is that surviving survival cannot be reduced to a science or even a narrative. But for this reason the book will likely be useful for those with resonating experiences: the cases provide multidisciplinary evidence that nobody struggles in isolation.