Alive tells the story of a Uruguayan Rugby team (who were alumni of Stella Maris College), and their friends and family who were involved in the airplane crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. The plane crashed into the Andes mountains on Friday, October 13, 1972. Of the 45 people on the flight, only 16 survived in sub-zero temperatures. After a few days, the rescue team searching for the survivors gave up. Consequently, the survivors had to sustain life with rations found in the wreckage after the plane had crashed. The rations did not last long, and in order to stay alive it became necessary for the survivors to eat the bodies of the dead. This was possible because the bodies had been preserved with the freezing temperatures and the snow. The book was published two years after the survivors of the crash were rescued. The author interviewed many of the survivors as well as the family members of the passengers before writing this book to obtain facts about the crash. He wanted to write the story as it had happened without embellishment or fictionalizing it. The author comments on this process in the Acknowledgments section:
I was given a free hand in writing this book by both the publisher and the sixteen survivors. At times I was tempted to fictionalize certain parts of the story because this might have added to their dramatic impact but in the end I decided that the bare facts were sufficient to sustain the narrative...when I returned in October 1973 to show them the manuscript of this book, some of them were disappointed by my presentation of their story. They felt that the faith and friendship which inspired them in the cordillera do not emerge from these pages. It was never my intention to underestimate these qualities, but perhaps it would be beyond the skill of any writer to express their own appreciation of what they lived through.