Lost in Shangri-la (Zuckoff)

Discussion Questions
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Lost in Shangri-la:

1. What would it feel like to be dropped, literally, from the mid-20th century into the stone age? How would you cope? Had you survived the crash of the Gremlin, what would be most difficult for you—pain, lack of food and water, personal hygiene, fear, waiting...and waiting for rescue?

2. Do the Americans find Eden when they crash into the jungle of New Guinea? What role does war play in the Dani tribal culture? If you've ever read The Lord of the Flies, is there a strange parallel here?

3. What are the attitudes of the Dani islanders and Americans toward one another? In what way do those attitudes change...or do they? Discuss what happens when the paratroopers arrive to set up camp.

4. The Dani had a myth that one day pale spirits would descend from the sky...and nothing would ever be the same. Were the natives better off after their brush with the modern world...or not?

5. Author Zuckoff traces the lives of the crash survivors in later years. How were their lives affected by their month in the jungle?

6. Zuckoff provides a great deal of historical exposition—on military gliders, the WACs in World War II, and the native islanders' customs and warfare? Was the background material interesting? If so, what did you find most enlightening? Or is it "information overload," a distraction from what might have been a more dramatic, sharply focused narrative?

7. Trapped in such an isolated location, waiting for a way out, there is little to keep the survivors occupied. Many spend their time wishing they were somewhere else. Yet, later, one of the survivors said the experience was one of the highlights of his life. How might you have felt? How difficult would it be for you to pass the time?

8. Question #7 brings up the age old query: if you were shipwrecked on a desert (or jungle) island what would you wish to have with you (aside from the basic necessities of life)?

9. Who among the victims, survivors, native hosts, rescuers do you admire? Or find most interesting?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online of off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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