It's been a week since the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. That story and the ongoing puzzle of what happened has author Alan Heathcock thinking. So here he is for our series This Week's Must Read about books that relate to the news.

ALAN HEATHCOCK: The biggest mystery is the plane. We're wondering where it went. But I think there's something else here that's captured our attention. It has to do with our fear of disappearing or having someone we love disappear. We live most of our lives trying to prove and strengthen our existence. Technology and social media, it's all geared towards keeping us connected and being constantly present in the lives of the people we love.

And when those things fail us, we get scared. So this might be a good moment to revisit a book that deals with disappearance. It's the young adult novel "Hatchet," by Gary Paulsen. "Hatchet" is the story of Brian Robeson. He's a 13-year-old boy who takes a bush plane to visit his father but crashes in the Canadian wilderness.

The pilot has died, and young Brian has to survive alone. At first he thinks he'll be saved, but days go by, then weeks. He's vanished in the eyes of everyone he knows and loves, but Brian doesn't die. Instead, he uses his hatchet to chop wood. He sparks a fire. He hunts for food and grows stronger. He lives.

Eventually another pilot hears an emergency transmission coming from Brian's crashed plane. He finds Brian by a lake, making dinner, and says you're him, aren't you, you're that kid. But by now Brian's not in need of being saved, and because the stew he made for himself is ready, he eyes the pilot and says my name is Brian Robeson. Would you like something to eat?

The question, of course, for Brian and for us thinking of the missing plane is how he was saved. Was it the technology, the transmitter, or was it a simple hatchet and a boy who decided he would not disappear, even when he couldn't be seen by others?


BLOCK: Alan Heathcock is the author of a book of stories titled "Volt." He recommended the young adult novel "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen.



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