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Extended Audio Sample Sole Survivor, by Ruthanne Lum McCunn Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (58 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ruthanne Lum McCunn Narrator: Johanna Ward Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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On November 23, 1942, German U-Boats torpedoed the British ship Benlomond. It sank in the Atlantic in two minutes. The sole survivor was a second steward named Poon Lim who, with no knowledge of the sea, managed to stay alive for 133 days on a small wooden raft.

Based on three years of interviews, Sole Survivor reconstructs Poon’s remarkable ordeal. We learn of a ship’s crew that saw him but refused to pick him up; his ingenious ways of trapping water and catching fish (later used in US Navy training films); and his arrival at land, only to find it an impenetrable jungle. When he was finally rescued at the mouth of the Amazon River, Poon was hailed as the “World’s Champion Survivor.” He still holds the Guinness World Record for survival at sea. His story is an amazing tale of a young man’s fortitude in the face of overwhelming odds.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Inviting reading…[Sole Survivor] rings with truth as well as excitement." 

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “A book of major interest and importance by an American-Chinese author of remarkable talent.” 

    Dallas Times

  • “[McCunn] shows us a meek, dependent person who is suddenly thrown on his own resources to remain alive…Through tortuous trial and error, Poon…learns to fish with a nail, to collect rainwater and to keep alert despite storms, blazing sun and nighttime cold. Five months later, when he washes ashore in Brazil, he is a matured man. Poon’s experience makes for a dignified, uplifting adventure tale.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “The tale of Poon Lim’s ordeal, including his thoughts and dreams, are told in Johanna Ward’s soft, pleasant voice, as though she were reading a child’s bedtime story. Her taciturn descriptions of the taste of fish eyes and the intestinal contents of sea birds are not for the squeamish and would be a good awakening for youngsters who won’t eat their vegetables.”


  • “A vivid account of how one man used his intelligence and ingenuity to survive against incredible odds.”

    School Library Journal

  • “A classic saga of ordeal and survival that reminds us of the courage, strength, and resourceful intelligence of which human beings are capable.”

    Tillie Olsen, author of Tell Me a Riddle

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Becky | 5/15/2013

    " Amazing story of determination, desperation, and endurance. I did not really care for Poon Lim's personality or helplessness at first, but he eventually reached deep inside himself for the will to survive and creative ways to do so. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by tbears | 8/5/2012

    " Talk about survival and endurance! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by David | 3/9/2011

    " great book. Read it 15 years or more ago and think of it many times. Each chapter is one story of the sole survivor of a ship wreck "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Don | 2/19/2011

    " Parts of the story were interesting, but I felt as though I was on the raftf or 133 days with this guy. It would be a good one to have if you become stranded at sea, but otherwise I'd skip it. "

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About the Author

Ruthanne Lum McCunn was born in San Francisco’s Chinatown and grew up in Hong Kong. She has published seven books on the experiences of Chinese people in America, including Thousand Pieces of Gold. She currently resides in San Francisco.