To the Last Breath: A Story of Going to Extremes

Francis Slakey. Simon & Schuster, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4391-9895-7
At age 37, physicist Slakey decided to climb the highest mountain on every continent and to surf every ocean. Cold and calculating, he imagines that he can work through his list of mountains and oceans in a perfectly efficient manner, assessing and evaluating the risks and completing each challenge. Over the next 10 years, hell-bent on accomplishing his goals, Slakey braves and survives subzero cold in Antarctica, a blizzard on Mt. Everest, and a near-deadly confrontation with a paramilitary group in Indonesia, among other adventures. In this rambling and disjointed memoir of his attempt to conquer mountains and waves, Slakey haltingly attempts to reveal the ways that small events changed him from a detached and insensitive individual into a caring person who recognizes the interconnectedness of all humanity. On his Everest climb, he witnesses a fellow climber giving up his oxygen to a climber in trouble—something he would never have thought of doing in his single-minded quest to achieve his goal. Once he leaves Indonesia, he learns that a group of Americans has been ambushed and killed by a group of soldiers; when he meets one of the survivors of that ambush, his hard-heartedness begins to melt even further. Yet by the time Slakey reports his change of heart about the world and others, it’s too late, for his arrogant and condescending nature has permeated the memoir, presenting a far more pervasive attitude toward life than the one he says he has embraced. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/27/2012
Release date: 05/08/2012
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