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The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey [Paperback]

Candice Millard
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 10 2006
At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth.

The River of Doubt—it is a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Indians armed with poison-tipped arrows haunt its shadows; piranhas glide through its waters; boulder-strewn rapids turn the river into a roiling cauldron.

After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon. Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished a feat so great that many at the time refused to believe it. In the process, he changed the map of the western hemisphere forever.

Along the way, Roosevelt and his men faced an unbelievable series of hardships, losing their canoes and supplies to punishing whitewater rapids, and enduring starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning, and a murder within their own ranks. Three men died, and Roosevelt was brought to the brink of suicide. The River of Doubt brings alive these extraordinary events in a powerful nonfiction narrative thriller that happens to feature one of the most famous Americans who ever lived.

From the soaring beauty of the Amazon rain forest to the darkest night of Theodore Roosevelt’s life, here is Candice Millard’s dazzling debut.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Anacondas, huge snakes found in the Amazon River and its tributaries, can weigh up to 500 pounds. That fact and many others embedded in this marvelously atmospheric travel narrative are here for the reader's asking and edification in Millard's important contribution to the complete biographical record of the great, dynamic Teddy Roosevelt. TR, it will be remembered, attempted a third term as president in 1912, only to make certain of a Democratic victory. Licking his wounds, and reverting to his typical method of "seeking solace from heartbreaks and frustration" by testing his physical endurance, he embarked on an Amazon exploration adventure. A set of odd circumstances led to the River of Doubt as the choice of venue, a large tributary of the giant river that up to that point had been little explored. What with suffering from fever and infection, Roosevelt nearly died on the trip; but live through it he did, and readers of both American history and travel narratives will take delight in living through these exciting pages. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The President's Real Men Dec 27 2013
By David Wineberg TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
There are two starring roles in The River of Doubt. One is the Amazon Basin and the other is Colonel Candido Rondon. Theodore Roosevelt clearly plays a minor, supporting role. Which is ironic, considering his outsized personality. And the fact that the book tries to be about him.

Hard to imagine today, but just a hundred years ago, no one knew what the Amazon interior looked like. There were no planes, satellites, four wheel drives or GPS. Explorers used oxen to carry their life support needs. There was no way to prepare in advance for what might be encountered. You could still discover rivers and mountains and name them yourself. That is the adventure Roosevelt set for himself after losing the presidential election by splitting his own party’s vote with a third party of his own. He was out, he was ignored, he was bored and he was depressed. And like many another, when in that state of being, the solution was: Road Trip!

The miracle of the trip (other than making it home at all) was that he was able to engage Candido Rondon to lead it for him. The Brazilian Rondon was experienced in the area because as head of the telegraph commission, he had been leading teams of men stringing wire over an 800 mile stretch of roadless interior, cutting trees for poles and planting them by hand as they went. He also headed the bureau protecting Indians (though they did not know it, there being no communications), which was his lifelong passion. He had come from total poverty to the military (as his only chance out) and drove himself relentlessly and flawlessly to positions of respect. Despite his small size, slight stature, country accent, lack of education, or friends. He instituted logic, common sense and zero hypocrisy in his leadership style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Final Triumph of a Maginficent Life! Feb. 11 2010
By James Gallen TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
I had often heard of Theodore Roosevelt's exploration down through the Amazon Jungle, but had never read the details of this great adventure. "The River of Doubt" gave me that opportunity. Recoiling from his defeat in the 1912 election, invitations to undertake a lecture tour of South America grew into a "Last chance to be a boy." More than that, this journey of exploration down the uncharted River of Doubt, enabled Roosevelt to add his name to the list of great explorers of the earth, along with Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Hernando DeSoto and others who filled in blank spaces on the map.

It takes a book like this, totally devoted to the great exploration, to really convey the enormity of the challenge which met the Roosevelt expedition. Accompanied by his son, Kermit, and Brazil's most renowned explorer this voyage of discovery began by lightening its load at the expense of discharging food and equipment which it would later need. The River of Doubt was a thousand mile ribbon of water snaking through the densest jungle on earth. Challenged by waterfalls and rapids, heat and insects, deadly predators and watchful Indians, the expedition gradually weakened as it raced to reach the outside world before its supplies were exhausted. Drowned and murdered members had to be buried, crush canoes replaced, water hazards bypassed and elusive game hunted as the explorers struggled to complete the journey alive. Toward the end, little more than raw courage kept the men going.

For Theodore Roosevelt, this was a most unusual undertaking for an ex-President. Weakened by disease and infection resulting from a leg injury, TR almost died on several occasions and begged his companions to leave him behind so that the expedition would not be jeopardized.
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5.0 out of 5 stars magnificant adventure May 8 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really couldn't put this book down. It is historic adventure at it's best and one of the best books of its kind I have ever read. The Characters are well drawn; Roosevelt's genuine and prinicpled courage, shared by his son, Kermit, and the remarkable Colonel Rondon, explorer, surveyer and friend to the very hostile tribes of the region. Even the infamous, Julio, murderer and thief emerges as a real person. Candice Millard has done a terrific job with this book; her prose is flawless and she captures the claustrophobic horrors of the deep jungle, both inhospitable and very alive. Her forays into history, anthropology and biology are also quite welcome. Highly recommended!
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