A tale worth listening

These days, I can't wait to get into my car and go for a long drive, especially if the kiddos are asleep. I reach over and pop in a cassette (yes, I know about the Ipod revolution) into the car stereo, then wait in breathless anticipation of what's to come.

A man's deep voice fills the car and, soon, I'm transported deep within the mountains of Central Asia, an invisible companion on a mountain-climbing adventure. Or rather the nightmare journey of four U.S. climbers taken hostage at gunpoint in 2000 by rebels linked to Al Qaeda.

In chilling detail, author Greg Child describes how the young climbers, three men and one woman, survive deadly conditions on all fronts, from their gun-toting kidnappers to freezing temperatures. The grueling experience tested the climbers' physical and mental endurance for six days, until they saw their opportunity for escape - at a price none of them is likely ever to forget.

I first read about these climbers back in a newspaper story published soon after their escape, then promptly forgot about it. I didn't realize the book, published in 2002, existed until just a few weeks ago while scouring a thrift store for decorating finds and books for my kids.

I didn't hesitate to buy it, especially at a mere 16 cents, because I've had a fondness for adventure stories ever since I discovered Jack London's "Call of the Wild" as a child. I have no desire to risk my life or challenge myself physically the way some of these adventurers do. But I find that I enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with reading a good tale of survival in the wilderness like Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air." Even better if I learn something new about a foreign country, which I did with "Over the Edge."

The mountain region known as the Karavshin, located about 80 miles from Afghanistan, attracted climbers from various countries despite the fact that it was a hotbed of warring factions. Though we know so much more today about the area, the story continues to be relevant because it illustrates just how deep-seated the tensions have been for decades, tensions not easily resolved.

The climbers taken hostage had clicked through various pages of the State Department website but somehow missed a page warning of potential danger in the area, the book says. As it turns out, this was a mistake that nearly cost them their life.

Check out this audio book (or the book itself) if you are into adventure stories or simply want to know more about an area of the world that, sadly, has taken a back page to news of our grim economy.

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