Slavomir Rawicz is wrongly accused of being a Polish spy and is, after weeks of torture, finally sentenced to 25 years in a Soviet Gulag. Squeezed tight with hundreds of other prisoners in a box car he traverses the remote country of Siberia. Along their journey they face starvation, receiving only a small ration of bread a day, and frigid cold without warm clothes or boots. But that journey was easy compared to the journey Slav will face next.
Recruiting six other prisoners, Slav begins to form a plan. Hiding bread rations for later and snagging a skun fur every now and then from the drying line they begin to plot their escape.
Waiting for a blizzard to cover the tracks they will make in the snow, Slav and the others wait…until one day when the snow falls heavy from the sky. Once outside, the journey begins. To flee to the west is a much shorter journey, but one that has a higher possibility of recapture- and to be caught would most certainly mean death. The decision to run to the south is the longest journey through harsh conditions, but the safest bet.
So begins their journey of almost 5,oo0 miles on foot, through Siberia and China, the Gobi desert and over the Himalayas. The conditions are brutal. From freezing conditions with no fire to the sweltering desert sun with no shade, going days with no food to having to gorge themselves on snakes because they didn’t have a way to transport food with them. Sometimes they were able to drink from fresh clean water. Other times facing dehydration, they tumbled a stone around in their mouth just to work up saliva.
The Long Walk is an incredible story-but is it just that? A story? Like other non-fiction/memoirs lately there has been controversy surrounding this book. Did Slavomir and his cohorts really walk through the Gobi for days without water or climb the Himalayas during the winter months? I don’t know- nor after reading this book do I care. The Long Walk is an exciting, danger-filled adventure.
I was drawn in by the determination of each character and their will to keep trudging on even when they would fall to their knees with fatigue. Part way through their journey they welcome another fugitive to their group. Seventeen-year-old Kristen was a prison runaway that had no other options but to fall in with these six, dirty, bedraggled men. Treating her like a sister and daughter they took care of her. But Kristen was strong. She never considered her journey a free ride. She walked thirty miles a day like the men and did her share to gather food and fuel for the fire. Her spirit was indomitable and I was awed by her resolve.
The Long Walk was an incredible book about the will to survive and the power to push on. Whether it was true or not, I loved it! 5/5 stars