I can’t believe I have not written about this book until now! I am sorry this posting comes too late for you to order a copy for every person on your Christmas list. The Survivors Club is one of those rare finds that I end up buying for, loaning to, or recommending to almost everyone. It’s great for adventurers, introverts, cynics, optimists, readers of fiction and non, your mail carrier and my former brother-in-law (he loved it!). I think one of the reasons it is so adaptable to the tastes of so many is that it has heart-pounding plot-driven sections, musing portions, scientific research, self-help, and an array of fascinating characters. It contains many of the elements of enjoyable fiction, while offering stranger-than-fiction, hair-raising tales.
Sherwood is a student of human nature, an experiential learner, (he allows himself to be trapped underwater at a naval training center) and an empathetic listener. He brings a social scientist’s curiosity and a chaplain’s heart to his subjects. I finished this book feeling like he genuinely likes people, and roots for them in their quests to overcome daunting misadventure and tremendous physical and emotional anguish. He revels in stories of success, but is also frank about the disheartening truths of people’s lives. In the course of this book, Sherwood talks with a Holocaust survivor, the woman who still holds the record for living through the longest fall, and people who have tried, unsuccessfully, to end their lives beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. All of them have such enormous, humbling grit. Hearing their tales made me feel a reverence for life, with all its violent twists of fate and unexpected, joyful reprieve.
After delving into all manner of stories that take place on sinking ships, in the jaws of a rogue mountain lion and on plummeting airplanes, he offers research on how to increase your luck. Sometimes you don’t have a choice about the outcome, but sometimes you do. My favorite words from the book were, “Sooner or later, we’re all survivors.” When you start to think of yourself that way, as a person on a journey of resilience, it changes your story. You can increase your chances of outlasting cataclysmic troubles; though increasing your luck at love and cards is a story for another book.
P.S. To alleviate confusion, you should know there is a crime fiction by Lisa Gardner that bears this same title.