BookBrowse Reviews Escape from the Land of Snows by Stephan Talty

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Escape from the Land of Snows

The Young Dalai Lama's Harrowing Flight to Freedom and the Making of a Spiritual Hero

by Stephan Talty

Escape from the Land of Snows by Stephan Talty X
Escape from the Land of Snows by Stephan Talty
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2011, 320 pages
    Jan 2011, 320 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

Buy This Book

About this Book



A moving book about how the Dalai Lama came to be a spiritual leader and his heartbreaking exile from Tibet

A peasant boy becomes a god-king then rediscovers his humanity as he flees his nation, and a people whose identity centers upon the Buddhist ideals of compassion and kindness take up arms against a brutal occupation army. In Escape from the Land of Snows, Stephan Talty bears witness to these remarkable histories, cruel ironies and extreme polarities.

He traces the 14th Dalai Lama's extraordinary life from early childhood to his daring and frightening escape from the Chinese forces into India and along the way deftly establishes the history of Buddhism in Tibet, the background of the Khampa warriors, a brief history of the West's discovery of Tibet, the CIA's support of the Tibetan uprising, and many other pertinent and interesting facts. It is fascinating to learn how monks identified the sociable and precocious little Lhamo Thondup as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, and to follow the young son and brother as he becomes a lonely god-king sequestered in medieval magnificence, stifled by monastic ritual, and untouched (with the exception of a car, some Life magazines and a film projector) by the modern world.

Central to the story is Tibet's religious foundation and the Dalai Lama's unique status and profound connection to his people: "Buddhism was much more than a state religion: it was the sole reason for Tibet's existence." As the "Precious Protector of Tibet," the Dalai Lama's significance transcends the spirit; Tibet is Buddhism, and the Dalai Lama is Tibet. As the 14th incarnation of Bodhisattva Chenrizi, the Dalai Lama is "the final aim of the nation, the end product of its special mission in the world." The Dalai Lama is at once spiritual exemplar and king - embodiment of Tibet's past and its future.

The narrative becomes more detailed, suspenseful and upsetting as Talty describes the days prior to the Dalai Lama's frightening escape during the 1959 uprising against Chinese occupation forces. Talty relates the first-hand experiences of a number of survivors and journalists, including American State Department officials, CIA agents, and their Tibetan operatives, in order to present a rich account of a doomed and heroic rebellion. Notable and touching are the stories of Athar Norbu, a CIA-trained Khampa resistance fighter; Lobsang Yonten, member of a prominent family and protester in the 1959 rebellion; and Tenpa Soepa, a junior official at the Dalai Lama's summer palace. Their extraordinary loyalty, courage, suffering and strength contrast the horrific, violent, and cruel methods of the P.L.A. and Chinese rule.

Talty concludes with his own visit, almost fifty years after the Dalai Lama's escape, to a Tibet that is a police state in which the Dalai Lama is outlawed. While on the Dalai Lama's summer palace grounds, Talty sneaks a brief, illicit conversation with a young Tibetan man:

"...What about the Dalai Lama?" "We want the Dalai Lama to return," the man said, smiling slightly, his voice ragged with emotion. "But sometimes it seems hopeless." Many old farmers and nomads couldn't afford the visas that would let them travel to India, he told me; their last wish was to see the Dalai Lama, but they would die without looking on his face. A Westerner must imagine the spirit of Christ alive somewhere in the world, and a Christian unable to go and see and be touched by him, to really get a sense of what Tibetans feel, the almost physical pain the separation causes them. Not to see the face of their Precious Protector is like passing through life as a restless ghost..."

If this history lacks anything it is photographs, but Escape from the Land of Snows, despite the grim reality of occupied Tibet, is an inspiring and important book and may, by fleshing out this transformative part of the Dalai Lama's biography, move many to act on behalf of the people he was forced to leave behind.

Reviewed by Jo Perry

This review is from the February 16, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Last Ballad
    by Wiley Cash
    A hundred years ago or so, farming land west of Charlotte, North Carolina was given over to giant ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Graybar Hotel
    by Curtis Dawkins
    We – those of us on the outside – are lucky. So very lucky. We get to experience life &#...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about a Palestinian family caught between present and past.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Giveaway!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.