438 Days {book review}

438 Days {Summer reading last-cal!}

There are still a few people that have summer reading lists – and with the season almost over, you might have blown through that list. Well here’s a last minute suggestion: 438 Days.

You might have heard this story in the news a while back. Salvador Alvarenga got stranded on a small vessel – and amazingly survived 438 Days at sea!

438 Days Book Review - 438 Days {book review}

I really want to share how amazing this story is. And while we vigorously tried encapsulating the incredible story about this ordeal – ended up finding a review from “Rick” online that did a much better job than we would have done. His sentiments are the same as ours to a tee.


On November 17, 2012, Salvador Alvarenga and an inexperienced assistant Ezequiel Cordoba set out on a twenty-five-foot fishing boat from a small Mexican village. 438 days (and approximately 6,000 miles) later… Salvador washed up… alone… a “Wild Man”… “ashore on Tile Islet, a small island that is part of the larger atoll. Ebon is the southern tip of the 1,156 islands that make up the Republic of the Marshall Islands and one of the most remote spots on earth.”

Salvador Alvarenga 438 Days 1 - 438 Days {book review}I remember seeing on TV the news a few days later reporting *ever-so-briefly* the “claim” that Alvarenga was lost at sea for fourteen months. The reports on two different stations were extremely short… and they hinted that this had to be a hoax. The image of the “supposed” historic survivor… with crazy hair and unkempt beard… and what looked like a generous belly… was never brought to my attention again…

UNTIL… this UNEQUIVOCALLY… mesmerizing… hypnotic… empathy… inducing book. The author does an unbelievable job… start to finish. Jonathon Franklin first indoctrinates the reader… as to not only what type of individual Alvarenga was throughout his life… which included fleeing El Salvador… in fear of his life… after a brutal bar room brawl… but explains the entire lifestyle of the Mexican village Alvarenga subsequently lived and worked in. There are no punches pulled in describing the day after day of drinking and drugs… followed by day after day of life-threatening fishing for among other things sharks. The awful weather conditions that the area was famous for… and as if to prove the reputation was well-earned… such a massive storm… is what started this whole fourteen-month odyssey.

The impression the author makes on the reader… regarding the rough physical labor embedded in these fishing trips… even before the small boat is taken out to parts of the ocean so dreaded and desolate… that even astronauts viewing it from space while orbiting the earth… make statements as to its… gloomy… dismal… isolation… is excruciating. As an example… in that tiny boat they carry “2-mile-long line studded with up to seven hundred hooks and hope the tuna, mahi-mahi, marlin, and sharks are biting. Sharks are their preferred catch.” Two men alone bait the hooks… throw out the line… pull in the fish… by hand!

After the boat is taken deep out to sea… with the motor non-operational… no paddles… no anchor (which would be worthless anyway)… a phone that no longer is usable… and weather that ranged from pouring storms… to day after day of unbearable heat… that literally bubbled the skin. The men’s faith and knowledge were tested minute to minute. They would run out of drinking water… run out of food… and soon only Salvador would remain. The reader is literally dragged into the hell on earth… that is… the tiny boat Salvador is in… you start feeling his hunger… his thirst… his success at times in catching with his bare hands… turtles… sharks… and then birds. The nauseating repulsion of what he has to eat… when he is “blessed” with the opportunity to… is palpitating. Covering himself with a cooler (ice) box that was meant to store the fish they went out to catch on the original trip… is used to protect him from the merciless sun… and to protect him from the cold at night. It’s claustrophobic to the reader… so imagine what it was to him.

Salvador Alvarenga 438 Days boat - 438 Days {book review}What takes this book to an even higher level… are the interspersed *expert* educational verification to facts that any doubter as to the time and space… and physical… AND… emotional… toll and situations… that were actually faced… might bring up. The author takes the offensive… in making sure… that anyone even off-handedly attempting to cast stones as to any of this being a fraud… are shot down… before they can even get any proverbial guns out of their holster. There are quotes from psychologists… biologists… ship captains… even astronauts. The author has truly done his homework.

This awe-inspiring book doesn’t end when Salvador makes it to shore… think how you would be mentally and physically if you went not only fourteen months without being able to move twenty-five feet… fearing every moment for your life… starving and dying of thirst… but if you did not have the ability to talk to even one human being for a year? So… it wasn’t only muscles that atrophied so bad… that Salvador could barely walk ten feet… but his personality… and cognitive skills had almost totally deteriorated. The author professionally and humanly covers that also.

This book will obviously be made into a movie one day… but with all the reading I’ve done over the years… I have never found a movie as good as a good book. There is no way on the Lord’s green earth… that a movie will be able to capture this entire story the way the author has.

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