Lost in the Valley of Death: Seeking Justin Alexander Shetler

Kimberly Winston speaks to Canadian journalist Harley Rustad about his powerful nonfiction book, Lost in the Valley of Death: A Story of Obsession and Death in the Himalayas. Rustad shares how he was able to intimately capture the story of Justin Alexander Shetler, a 35-year-old, spiritually curious seeker, who disappeared in the remote Parvati Valley of India in 2016. Then, we return to a segment first broadcast the same year Shetler disappeared, in which former NPR religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty explores the spiritual impact of what scholars call a “mid-faith crisis.”

A Chameleon
Harley Rustad recounts the life of Justin Alexander Shetler, an American man who vanished in India’s Parvati Valley in 2016. Shetler, described as a sort of “lost boy” by his friends, was on a spiritual quest, one that caused him to push himself to greater and greater extremes and eventually, fatal danger.

Find Your Own Truth
Rustad recounts his journey to India to trace Justin Alexander Shetler’s footprints and describes how the 35-year-old embarked on a perilous hike as a disciple of a holy man he barely knew. In the end, two men went up to the sacred lake, but only one came back.

A Spiritual Desert
We take a trip back to the archives for a conversation with Barbara Bradley Hagerty about the potential for spiritual renewal and reconnection after a so-called “mid-faith crisis.” Hagerty speaks with two religious scholars, Father James Martin and Kathleen Norris, who describe how to find the holy in everyday life after experiencing the phenomenon of losing touch with God.

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