Feature

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey

Candice Millard tells of a turning point in Theodore Roosevelt’s life, where politics took a backseat to the prospect of dying.

On Christmas Day, 1913, former President Theodore Roosevelt set off into the Brazilian rain forest in search of the headwaters of an uncharted river. The expedition he headed was poorly prepared. The team carried an ample supply of malted milk but not the basics to survive a half-year's hard slog to the river and down its rough waters. One man drowned, and another was murdered along the way. Roosevelt himself was injured and barely survived the resulting fever. Lying in the dark noisy jungle, surrounded by coral snakes, poisonous frogs, jaguars, cannibalistic tribes, and malaria-carrying mosquitoes, a sweat-covered Roosevelt at one point threatened to take his own life if the depleted team wouldn't push ahead without him. His son Kermit refused to oblige.

America's 26th president never truly regained full health, said Tahir Shah in The Washington Post. The famously gung-ho adventurer died at 60, five years after the trek was completed. But his perilous journey into the South American jungle 'œprovided the therapy he sought' after being trounced in his bid to return to the White House as a third-party candidate in the 1912 election. There's nothing like the specter of death to take a man's mind off of politics, and Candice Millard has found a way to turn this obscure passage in Roosevelt's life into a 'œtruly gripping tale.' Like its protagonist, The River of Doubt is 'œthorough, robust,' and 'œextremely knowledgeable.' Drawing on her deep understanding of the rain forest's 'œawesome diversity of flora and fauna,' said Roger K. Miller in The Denver Post, Millard makes her story's setting feel like 'œa battleground for species' survival.' Then the former National Geographic writer lets the action unfold in short, 'œbrisk' chapters.

The New York Times

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