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A year after Teddy Roosevelt suffered defeat in his 1912 run for the White House, the audacious adventurer determined to renew his broken spirit with an investigative trip to South America. What began as a relatively mundane float down previously mapped terrain, however, became a much more dangerous journey into the unknown -- an expedition down a locally feared tributary of the Amazon known as the "River of Doubt."
Millard's account of Roosevelt's unprecedented feat propels readers straight into the heart of the Amazon -- a place filled with hazards of every conceivable description. From vines, poisonous snakes, and piranhas to cannibals and duplicitous guides, Roosevelt was forced to bushwhack a path much more perilous than that of 20th-century politics, and faced unspeakable hardships. Poor planning led to improper food supplies and inadequate boats, and a succession of bow-breaking rapids meant days lugging supplies through the dense jungles.
Roosevelt and his fellow explorers faced constant illness and disease, fear of attack from hostile tribes, drowning, starvation, and even mutiny within their own ranks. A raging, flesh-eating infection that reached its peak at the most treacherous point in the journey brought Roosevelt himself to the brink of death. But the expedition's labors would forge a new map of the world as well as a previously unplumbed strength of character, necessary for survival.
(Holiday 2005 Selection)
Roosevelt pulled through, and The River of Doubt reminds one of the man himself -- thorough, robust, extremely knowledgeable and triumphant. There are far too many books in which a travel writer follows in the footsteps of his or her hero -- and there are far too few books like this, in which an author who has spent time and energy ferreting out material from archival sources weaves it into a truly gripping tale.
The Washington Post
… The River of Doubt is not an ordinary biography. Its author, Candice Millard, is a credible historian as well as a former writer and editor for National Geographic. She pays keen attention to nature, human and otherwise, in this vigorous, critter-filled account of Roosevelt's last epic journey: a white-water voyage through the Brazilian rain forest and the deep unknown.
The New York Times
Although The River of Doubt sheds new light on one of the more exciting years in Theodore Roosevelt's life, bookstore clerks ought not to shelve it under biography. In her debut book, Millard, a former writer and editor for National Geographic, combines high adventure well told with dazzling passages of nature writing that illuminate the darkest, steamiest sections of the Amazon forest.
The New York Times Sunday Book Review
Ferrone's gravelly, stentorian, hushed voice sounds downright presidential in reading the story of this little-known event from ex-Commander-in-Chief Theodore Roosevelt's postpolitical life. After losing his third-party run for the 1912 presidential election, Roosevelt agreed to accompany a Brazilian explorer on a trip along the Amazon, hoping to map the river's uncharted path. Expecting an uneventful trip, Roosevelt and his party barely managed to escape with their lives. Ferrone adopts a strange tone when providing Roosevelt's voice, attempting to echo his famously brusque boom and sounding oddly strangled in the process. His reading is on steadier ground in conveying the sweep of Millard's prose, uniting the personal drama of the Roosevelt family with the naturalist investigations of the voyage. Ferrone carries the narrative along on the waves of his own raspy, gruff instrument, shuttling readers through Millard's book with a steely self-assurance reminiscent of its subject. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Reviews, July 11). (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Whenever fate dealt him a blow, Theodore Roosevelt struck back by taking on a new physical challenge. Millard, formerly with National Geographic, charts how TR dealt with his "third term" loss for the White House in 1912: he accepted a lecture invation to Buenos Aires and followed it with a dangerous expedition deep into the Amazon in search of a remote tributary known as the River of Doubt. Millard's book has four central characters, each vividly brought to life: the 55-year-old ex-president; the celebrated Brazilian explorer Col. Candido Rondon; TR's 24-year-old second son, Kermit; and the Amazon rain forest itself, which nearly doomed the two dozen members of the expedition. From the outset, the three men had different goals. For TR it was his "last chance to be a boy" and to become a genuine explorer, for Rondo it was an opportunity to survey properly the river he had discovered in 1909, and for Kermit it was a duty to his mother, who worried about her aging husband. The expedition encompassed miles of impassable rapids, loss of canoes and supplies, malaria, near-starvation, cannibalistic Indians, deadly snakes and insects, and a murderous porter. Millard turns this incredible story into one that easily matches an Indiana Jones screen adventure. Essential.-William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The 26th U.S. president, failing re-election, has an adventure that nearly kills him. In an admirable debut, historian Millard records Theodore Roosevelt's exploration of a hitherto uncharted river in the heart of the Mato Grosso. A confluence of circumstances, including a South American speaking tour and the eagerness of others to investigate the Amazonian headwaters, brought Teddy, aged 55 and still bold and plucky, to Brazil, then largely unmapped and unknown. When the opportunity came to change a planned route to follow the uncharted course of the ominously named River of Doubt, the former chief executive seized it eagerly. And so, with devoted son Kermit and truly intrepid Brazilian co-commander Candido Rondon, along with a band of hardy recruits, the party plunged into the fierce, fecund jungle and its unknown dangers. (It's an exploit that standard TR biographies generally treat lightly, if at all). With heavy, useless equipment and inappropriate provisions, the Roosevelt-Rondon Expedition ventured into the luxuriant wilderness where every life form threatened. There were pit vipers, piranhas and tiny fish that attack where a man is most vulnerable. There were poisonous plants, malevolent insect swarms and native warriors, ever present and never seen. The beefy former president must have embodied some prime cuts for the cannibals as he sat in his canoe. Eventually Colonel Roosevelt was downed by injury and fever. He ended his journey emaciated at three-quarters of the weight he started with on the watercourse now found in atlases as the Roosevelt River. Millard tells the story wonderfully, marshaling ecology, geography, human and natural history to tell the tale of the jungleprimeval, of bravery and privation, determination and murder in the ranks as cowboy Roosevelt survived the Indians of the Amazon. Teddy Roosevelt's tropical adventure, splendidly related.
“A rich, dramatic tale that ranges from the personal to the literally earth-shaking.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“[A] fine account . . . There are far too many books in which a travel writer follows in the footsteps of his or her hero—and there are far too few books like this, in which an author who has spent time and energy ferreting out material from archival sources weaves it into a gripping tale.” —The Washington Post
“[N]o frills, high-adventure writing . . . Millard’s sober account is as claustrophobic as a walk through the densest jungle, and as full of vigor as Roosevelt himself.”