Book Review: Detours to Destiny

Book Review, Detours to Destiny: A Memoir

by Elling Halvorson with Diana Savage and Gerald D. Gawne

Elling Halvorson fought for consciousness, his broken body trapped in a mangled helicopter at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Was this accident just a huge detour for Elling’s life, or would it prove to be a dead end for him and his business?

As a young man, it seemed Elling had been preparing his whole life to follow his father and brothers into the construction business, but he felt conflicted. Should he follow in his family’s business footsteps, or should he enter Christian ministry? While in college he came to see that this was a false choice. He had inherited the core values for ministry (honesty, integrity, generosity) from his family. But now he saw that he could combine his own construction firm, based on those values, with ministry. That’s what he did, beginning a lifetime of creative, successful business adventures…with many detours along the way.

One of the many hair-raising detours told about in this book was when Elling found himself alone and lost over heavy clouds on the way from Seattle to Northern California. Unable to find any radio signals, and with fuel dwindling, Elling grabbed for the pilot’s manual. At that moment he saw his magnetic compass make a wild spin. At once he realized the metal spine of the book had corrupted the compass setting and he was flying straight west into a watery grave in the Pacific. He recovered course and landed at the right airport, out of fuel and in the nick of time.

In another project fraught with detours and creative solutions, his company built a water pipeline from the North rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim. It would be the most crooked pipeline in the world, and it all had to be out of the line-of-sight of tourists. Not only were the challenges unprecedented, but when the project was nearing completion, that area of the Grand Canyon experienced a rainstorm not seen for at least 1,500 years. The flood washed out much of their work and destroyed the machinery. Then, while flying to inspect the damage in the bottom of the canyon, his helicopter crashed. Elling would have forfeited his life except for a series of miracles.

Detours to Destiny tells the tale of his far-flung construction empire, including founding of the popular Grand Canyon Flightseeing helicopter business. It also tells the story of Elling’s birth family and his growing up, then of his own marriage and family, with the detours, challenges, joys, and sorrows that entailed.

Detours to Destiny is a pleasure to read, not only for the exciting “detours” and the fascinating information in it, but also because it’s inspiring to see what God can do with gifts and talents that are given back to him.

A Word from Joan:

Detours to Destiny: A Memoiris a story that was a lifetime in the making. Two lifetimes, if you go back to the parents who so greatly influenced Elling Halvorson and his siblings in their choices of life style and vocation.

Diana Savage, and before her, Gerald D. Gawne, took Ellings’ words and memories and crafted this inspiring tale of family, creative and faith-filled living, and vocational accomplishment.

I especially enjoyed this book because my late husband, Robert W. Biggar, was a construction engineer in Alaska. Permafrost, deep-freeze temperatures, wild animals, and round-the-clock summer daylight were some conditions that made innovation of great importance. Some of my very first stories were written about the creative ways he and other Alaskan workers met the challenges of building roads, airstrips and other infrastructure in the far north.

I felt right at home with Elling’s creative approach to challenges that other people wouldn’t attempt. He may have been a Type A personality, but he had plenty of energy to go around, and his family thrived under his love and attention.


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