Lost in the Valley of Death Summary and Reviews

Lost in the Valley of Death

A Story of Obsession and Danger in the Himalayas

by Harley Rustad

Lost in the Valley of Death by Harley Rustad X
Lost in the Valley of Death by Harley Rustad
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2022
    304 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

In the vein of Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, a riveting work of narrative nonfiction centering on the unsolved disappearance of an American backpacker in India - one of at least two dozen tourists who have met a similar fate in the remote and storied Parvati Valley.

For centuries, India has enthralled westerners looking for an exotic getaway, a brief immersion in yoga and meditation, or in rare cases, a true pilgrimage to find spiritual revelation. Justin Alexander Shetler, an inveterate traveler trained in wilderness survival, was one such seeker.

In his early thirties Justin Alexander Shetler, quit his job at a tech startup and set out on a global journey: across the United States by motorcycle, then down to South America, and on to the Philippines, Thailand, and Nepal, in search of authentic experiences and meaningful encounters, while also documenting his travels on Instagram. His enigmatic character and magnetic personality gained him a devoted following who lived vicariously through his adventures. But the ever restless explorer was driven to pursue ever greater challenges, and greater risks, in what had become a personal quest—his own hero's journey.

In 2016, he made his way to the Parvati Valley, a remote and rugged corner of the Indian Himalayas steeped in mystical tradition yet shrouded in darkness and danger. There, he spent weeks studying under the guidance of a sadhu, an Indian holy man, living and meditating in a cave. At the end of August, accompanied by the sadhu, he set off on a "spiritual journey" to a holy lake—a journey from which he would never return.

Lost in the Valley of Death is about one man's search to find himself, in a country where for many westerners the path to spiritual enlightenment can prove fraught, even treacherous. But it is also a story about all of us and the ways, sometimes extreme, we seek fulfillment in life.

Lost in the Valley of Death includes 16 pages of color photographs.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Journalist Rustad crafts a haunting narrative of the life of Justin Alexander Shetler, an American backpacker who disappeared in the Indian Himalayas in 2016...Equal parts tribute and travelogue, this is sure to enthrall those curious about a life lived to the extreme." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[T]he journey is fascinating and well rendered. A thorough, journalistic exploration of the mindset of a seeker on a visionary quest." - Kirkus Reviews

"Rustad's portrait of Shetler and the land in which his life ended is remarkably well-crafted and captivating, a powerful addition to the literature of quests and wilderness exploration." - Booklist

"In Justin Alexander Shetler, Harley Rustad has found a character equal parts Shantaram and Into the Wild's Christopher McCandless, only with the media savvy of Anthony Bourdain and the soulful charisma of Bruce Chatwin. It is hard to imagine anyone able to illuminate this haunted, driven, marvelously complex person as richly and thoroughly as Rustad has done here." - John Vaillant, author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce

"Justin Alexander Shetler went to India in search of adventure and authenticity and never came back. Was his disappearance the result of a crime, an accident, or a profound spiritual transformation? This mystery beats at the heart of Harley Rustad's gripping and propulsive book, which is part travelogue, part pilgrim's quest, part detective story. The result is the classic hero's journey updated for a hectic, hyperconnected world: think The Lost City of Z meets Eat Pray Love, only set in the Himalayas in the age of hashtags." - Kate Harris, author of Lands of Lost Borders

"A mysterious tale of a spiritual seeker, a survivalist on a motorcycle pilgrimage through the Himalayas, who places his trust in a sadhu, only to disappear like honey on a razor's edge. A wonderful book." - Wade Davis, author of Magdalena and Into the Silence

This information about Lost in the Valley of Death shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Harley Rustad

Harley Rustad is the author of Big Lonely Doug: The Story of One of Canada's Last Great Trees. His writing has appeared in publications including Outside, the Guardian, the Globe and Mail, and Geographical. He is a features editor and writer at The Walrus magazine, a faculty editor at the Banff Centre's mountain and wilderness writing residency, and the founder of the Port Renfrew Writers' Retreat. A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Rustad is originally from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.

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