Review: Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff

Posted May 9, 2013 by Heather in Book Reviews / 23 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Frozen in Time by Mitchell ZuckoffFrozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff
Published by Harper on April 23, 2013
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: Paperback
Pages: 416
Source: the publisher / TLC Book Tours

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On November 5, 1942, a U.S. C-53 cargo plane on a routine flight crash-landed on the Greenland ice cap. All five men aboard initially survived the crash and sent out distress calls. Four days later, a B-17 involved in the search-and-rescue for the missing C-53 and its crew got caught in a nasty storm and also crashed. All nine men on that flight initially survived. While trying to save the surviving men of the B-17, an amphibious Coast Guard plane called a Grumman Duck vanished along with the three men on board. By the time the last three B-17 men stranded on the Greenland glacier were finally rescued by Bernt Balchan’s team, they had spent 148 days in subzero temperatures, hurricane-force winds, and terrifying Greenland blizzards. For 148 days they had survived on an active glacier, full of hidden crevasses and other life-threatening dangers. Unfortunately, the C-53 and its crew was never found, nor was the Grumman Duck and its crew.

In 2012, seventy years after these events, Mitchell Zuckoff joined the Coast Guard and North South Polar, Inc.–a volunteer group led by Lou Sapienza–in Greenland, on a mission to find the Grumman Duck and to bring the remains of its men back to the U.S. for proper burials and closure. Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest For Lost Heroes of World War II recounts the events of 1942-43 and the 2012 mission to find the Grumman Duck.

Frozen in Time is written as narrative nonfiction, so it reads like a suspense novel. Nothing in the book is fabricated; Zuckoff did extensive research, and “took no liberties with facts, dialogue, characters, details, or chronology” (as noted in his “Note to the Reader” at the beginning of the book). Zuckoff moves back and forth between the events of 1942-43 and the events of 2012, with the date he’s writing about as part of the heading of each chapter. Of course this adds to the suspense when he leaves the men on the ice in 1942 to talk about the preparations today’s group is making for landing on Greenland in 2012.

Zuckoff also includes a brief but detailed history of Greenland starting with Erik the Red’s “discovery” of Greenland in 982. He (Zuckoff) writes about Greenland’s terrain, population, weather, and why the U.S. government was using Greenland as a military base during WWII. I really didn’t know much about Greenland before reading Frozen in Time and I learned so much from the book. Greenland sounds like my version of Hell, and I can’t imagine being stranded there with little to no shelter for 148 days. I was raving about the book to Eric one night and told him that I probably would have given up on the third day if I hadn’t been rescued–I would have just gone to sleep in the snow and let the cold kill me. The nine men from the B-17 crash, along with their rescuers, were some of the bravest men I have ever read about.

Frozen in Time is very well written and Zuckoff made me feel like I was actually there, witnessing everything that happened in 1942-43. I felt the cold, the frustration, the hunger, and the innumerable other obstacles the men of the B-17 had to conquer in order to survive. If reading about WWII, learning about other countries, or reading about people who have survived in the face of harrowing adversity is something you’re into, I highly recommend Frozen in Time. And because of its narrative nonfiction format, it will appeal to readers of fiction and nonfiction alike.

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  • I don’t typically read narrative nonfiction. I think it’s a great, engaging way to present the facts, but I can’t help but feel that I’d still be judging it on the story (which of course is non-negotiable) the way that I would a novel. I guess I prefer a stronger line between my fiction and nonfiction.

    • Well, even if this were a fictional story, it’s great–very well written. If I were judging it as a work of fiction, I still would have given it a five-star rating. 🙂

  • This sounds really intriguing just reading your first few sentences made me go OMG the suspense.

  • therelentlessreader

    Ooh ooh I wanna read this! FAB review my dear. I just requested it from my library 🙂 Thanks for adding to my tbr pile 😉

    • Thank you! And you’re welcome!

  • This is like the new “it” book, I’ve seen it popping up all over the place! I just requested it from my library!!!!

    • Yay! I really want to read his other books now. I’m going to check my library for them when I go today.

  • Ooh, this is a fantastic review! This book has been on my periphery, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was all about. Thanks for making this an ASAP read for me!

  • I love books like these that are rooted in true happenings but give so much detail into a given time period. I bet that Scott would really like this one on audio, too. And now I’m remembering your tweet about Zuckoff’s name. Bahahaha! 😉

  • This sounds like something I would really like–I have a thing about ‘survival in cold places stories’. Is that specific enough? 🙂

    • Yes, that is specific enough. I had to wrap myself in a blanket to read it. Haha!

  • Most excellent review to a most excellent book.

    I’m looking forward to read your thoughts about Lost in Shangri-la (which I thought was better).

    • Thank you! I’m hoping to read Lost in Shangri-La sometime this summer. If it’s better than Frozen in Time, I know I’ll really enjoy it.

  • What an interesting and apparently thrilling non-fiction. Suspenseful is not normally a word I would use to describe the non-fiction I have read. But I love a good suspense/thriller and you have me curious to read this book. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • You’re welcome! Thanks for reading my review.

  • Very intriguing. Excellent review, Heather

  • “Greenland sounds like my version of Hell” AGREED! Still, I’m super excited to read this book.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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