Picks and Pans Review: Am I Alive?

updated 07/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Sandy Purl with Gregg Lewis

Anyone who has lived through a traumatic ordeal will empathize with the author of this book. On April 4, 1977, Purl, a flight attendant, was working a routine run aboard Southern Airways Flight 242 from Huntsville, Ala. to Atlanta. Suddenly both engines cut out during a hailstorm, and the plane, carrying the 24-year-old stewardess, three other crew members and 81 passengers, crashed, leaving 72 dead. Conscientious almost to a fault, Purl stayed at the crash site pulling bodies from the wreckage. Although Purl survived, she became a psychological wreck. She writes of discovering bitterly that her airline offered little support and that her family and friends were ill-equipped to cope with her reactions too. "None of my emotions were under control," writes Purl. "So even those closest to me suffered from attacks of my rage...I was oblivious to the pain I inflicted on the people around me." In a self-destructive four-year binge, Purl had a therapeutic abortion, broke up her two-year marriage, endured a degrading affair and ended up in a mental ward in Salt Lake City. She found strength by turning to prayer, then to work. How she pulled her life together and became an activist in educating airline executives to the reality of accidents makes for a moving story. (Harper & Row, $13.95)

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