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Friday, March 6, 2015

Unraveling A Dream

My dreams may have helped me unravel the disquiet I've felt since finishing "River Of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey" (2005), the startling debut of Candice Millard. One paragraph of exposition, a few dream fragments and a conclusion.

Of the twenty one men Roosevelt had with him exploring an uncharted tributary of the Amazon in the early 20th century, five were his fellow officers -  three Americans, including Roosevelt and his son Kermit and three Brazilians, including Roosevelt's co-commander Colonel Candido Rondon. The remaining sixteen were Brazilian camaradas, men responsible for propelling the canoes, carrying the gear and cooking the meals. Along with an inherently compelling story, the author adds scrupulous research, straightforward prose and a solid sense of pace to create an inspiring read.

Everything is green and wet; children cry - "where is Daddy?"; a man stands at a podium talking about his adventures; the audience applauds.

Millard's book is a triumph. Teddy Roosevelt is the President who championed the concept of US National Parks. As River of Doubt makes clear, he was also a fearless adventurer and naturalist. Three of those sixteen camaradas perished during the two month long descent of the tributary known today as Rio Roosevelt. If I'd learned just a little more (perhaps in the moving epilogue?) about the lives of any of the sixteen, it's possible the unsettled feeling I've had since finishing the book would not have remained with me this long.

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