River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Camilla Millard
- 416 pages (353 pages excluding Notes)
- Organized into short, cup-of-coffee length sections within chapters so the reader can sneak in a few minutes with the book at a time
Reading Martin Dugard’s Into Africa put me in mind of this book from last year. The two accounts are similar not only for the exploration theme but also for their richly detailed narrative styles. However, this book is set in South America.
What happens to presidents after they leave office? They tend to disappear into the vault of history. Teddy Roosevelt didn’t live out the remainder of his days on the golf course, though. Roosevelt’s character wouldn’t permit him to accept simply fading away, and he used an expedition to explore one of the Amazon’s major tributaries as a chance to make a final mark on history. Along the way, he renewed his relationship with his son, Kermit, but he faced danger, illness and death in the name of defining one river’s course.
I am not normally a fan of biography: biographies of the living reek of agenda, while biographies of the dead pass judgment or offer hero worship. This facet of Roosevelt’s life story, however, is a fascinating one that doesn’t make the standard American history textbooks. Millard has researched her subject beautifully and doesn’t ruin the pace of the story with too much personal rumination. Moreover, its scope offers some wonderful insights into the cultures and landscapes of South America.
Pack this one for a trip, so you can appreciate the comforts of flying coach.