Passages - An OverviewAll Passages
In the author's view, most human beings are interested in basically two things—love and death, finding one and avoiding the other. And this human fascination with these elements, especially death, touches an audience that includes all of us, regardless of age, gender, income, or religious belief and helps fuel the wide appeal of action/adventure books.
Villarreal tells of close calls with death in virtually every chapter, both his own and those of his climbing clients. To come to physical harm within the confines of our protected societies today, when first responders are only minutes away and emergency rooms with competent doctors are close by, serious injuries and illnesses are dealt with quickly. This is not the case in remote regions, far away from the modern cocoon of protection that enwraps our daily lives. Often several days away from another human being and five to ten hours from there back to civilization, Villarreal faced the real possibility that a broken leg high on a mountain or an inadvertent cut from a sharp instrument, events easily dealt with at home, could turn deadly on a big mountain. The dynamic that plays out through the chapters is that the author knows he has crossed the line by climbing solo and the tension this raises between what he should do and what he actually does flows through the book.
The protagonist of Clawing for the Stars is, of course, the author. Though human through and through, he rises to the heights of true valor and courage. The quality of the narrative which stands out is that the courage Villarreal shows is not the type we find so often, where a person takes an action for which the consequences are unknown. If the risk taker comes through alive we say he had great "courage." But this is not the classical definition put forth by Plato. Rather, true courage is shown by those who know the dangers they face with a particular action and yet still engage in that action. The author knew without a doubt that climbing solo in the remotest parts of the Great Andes posed the utmost peril to his very life. And yet, he continued on. Thus, the mystery is placed before us. Why?
The quality which satisfies the most in this narrative is its nobility. Only too well we know man's shortcomings, his cowardice, his faults, and other writers are only too keen in exposing these. But we need today someone to tell us how a man may be raised far above himself by his sheer force of determination. Villarreal has done that.
Why this book? And why now? The author believes that action/adventure/travel/memoir books are always popular because the daily grind of our ordinary existences leaves a longing for escape. And the chance to visit different, exotic lands where most have never ventured is especially enticing. So too is the opportunity to vicariously experience physical and emotional hardships through the author's telling of them. As an added bonus, the linkage of the book with the author's interactive website, what he calls Read and View: A New and Exciting Way to Enjoy a Book, creates a thrilling way to enjoy his adventures and is completely unique to the publishing world.