Friday, July 31, 2009
Down Around Midnight
This book--captivitating, honest, poetic and well written--will live on for me for a long time because I read it aloud to my husband on our trip home from our vacation in southeastern Pennsylvania. The driving time was 8 hours, and as my son happily watched a movie on his DVD player, I read this haunting memoir aloud from cover to cover. We were both mesmerized. I finished just as we were heading up Boltinghouse Road into Bloomington and into our own driveway.
Robert Sabbag experienced a nightmare in the summer of 1979. He was returning to Cape Cod by plane when without warning the plane crashed into a vast forest. He and his fellow survivors--there were 9 including the co-pilot--waited in the dark injured and bleeding and in various states of consciousness for hours before rescue arrived. Then they all convalesced and went their separate ways. Robert tried to put it behind him until 30 years later he felt he he had to investigate the event and write his story. He managed to locate 4 of his fellow passengers from the horrible nightmare and a number of EMT's and hospital personnel who were on duty that night.
This story, as any good memoir reader or writer will tell you, is not a tale told in a linear fashion. It is a catastrophic event meant to be viewed from all sides as a whole piece of truth. The story and it's aftermath is witnessed mainly through Robert Sabbag's reliable eyes (or are they reliable?), but he does a great job of interweaving the stories of the families who were waiting at the airport and the pilot who should not have been flying and the paramedics who bushwhacked their way into the forest and had to carry them on stretchers a mile out of the forest.
This is also the story of a very particular place: Cape Cod. He creates a loving portrait of the peninsula he has come to call home, and as he is re-creating his story of crash and recovery he does it with the backdrop of this historic and eccentric place. I have been to the Cape only twice, but I felt the essential life of the Cape coming through in all the chapters.
This book was pure poetry and Robert Sabbag is a fantastic writer. It is worth noting, that the most haunting parts of the story are naturally the ones he could not tell--the four people from the crash--three young sisters and the co-pilot--who he did not get the opportunity to interview for the book. I hope they read it and understand.
This book also does a great job of presenting and talking about PTSD. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) Not too much clinical information or psychological babble, but the poetry of living with PTSD.
I highly recommend this book. It is a fast and enjoyable read.