Deep Down Dark, by Héctor Tobar

August’s book review is on Héctor Tobar’s true story, Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free.

Deep Down Dark, by Héctor Tobar
Deep Down Dark, by Héctor Tobar

As you know, a mine in Chile collapsed on August 5, 2010, and trapped 33 miners in a tunnel more than 2000 feet underground with only three days’ supply of food. On the news here in the States, the story touched me so much that I felt compelled to pray for them and to record updates on their status.

See: The World Waits,
Halfway to the Miners,
Breakthrough to “Los 33”,
and All 33 Rescued.

Knowing the outcome didn’t spoil the suspense of the book for me because the author told the inside story, starting with how the miners happened to have jobs in that mine and what they did earlier that day.

I listened to the book (11 CDs) while driving to and from Idaho in July. The reader, Henry Leyva, who switched naturally between English and Spanish (for names mostly), was so clear and dramatic that I’ll keep an eye open for his name the next time I buy an audio book.

The thing that struck me first in the story was that all rescue attempts in the five previous collapses of the San José mine were unsuccessful. No miners had ever come out alive. None.

Another thing that struck me was the darkness. The title, Deep Down Dark, took me far into the earth, and the ensuing story made me frantic to get out. I got disoriented, felt claustrophobic, missed my family, and got thirsty and hungry and hot in the inescapable heat.

The author let us follow what happened above ground, too. The miners’ families, who camped outside the fence at the mine, refused to leave. I empathized during their long days of not knowing what was going on, seeing officials come and go, watching trucks arrive with another drill, hearing the drill fall silent, and waiting for days and then weeks for news the men were alive.

The author showed us the spiritual battle for survival, including how they banded together, how they gathered at noon every day to pray, how they clung to their faith and found new faith in God, and how they committed themselves to becoming better husbands, better fathers, and better workers.

Who would like this book
I’d recommend the story to people who are fascinated by the will of the human spirit to survive. I was surprised at how gripping the mechanics of drills and rescue operations were, and I was impressed by the author’s skill.

To read the NT Times review, click here.

The story was made into a movie in 2015, The 33, staring Antonio Banderas. I liked it very much because it showed the desolate terrain of the mine and the rock-walled “rooms”, which were much bigger than I’d imagined. In addition, the acting was superb, and the director let us experience long moments of darkness. It’s a wonder someone didn’t have a panic attack. But the book was better.

I hope to meet the miners in heaven someday. In the meantime, may God bless them and their families.

Posted on August 2, 2016

8 thoughts on “Deep Down Dark, by Héctor Tobar

  1. I tried to post yesterday, Norma, but for some reason I couldn’t get it to go through. Just wanted to say the book and movie both sound inspirational. Motivated me to put a hold on the movie through our library system.

    1. Glad you didn’t give up on posting a comment, Judy. We got the movie from our library, too. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for bringing this book to our attention. I was aware of the movie (been on the library waiting list for a few weeks!) but not aware of the book. Sounds like a good read!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting on my book review, Diane. This was one of those true-life stories I didn’t know I’d like until I read it. I hope you like the movie.

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