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The Lower Riverby Paul Theroux
Synopses & Reviews
“Hypnotically compelling fiction . . . A gripping and vital novel that reads like Conrad or Greene—in short, a classic.”—Booklist, starred review
From The Lower River
To make the moment last, Hock peeled one banana slowly with his fingertips and nibbled it, eyeing the distant crowd of children from the shade of his hut. He was impressed by the silence and concentration of the children, and fearful, too, that such a large number could be controlled by the single older boy.
And in that running commentary in his head, his narrative of the misery hed put himself into, he thought how the worst of it was not the dirt or the heat or the thirst—though they wore him down; and not the insects or the bad-tempered children; but the uncertainty, not knowing at the beginning of each day how that day would end.
This thought was cut off by movement at the periphery of his vision, a sliding line at ground level that bunched and swelled and grew longer, crackling through the dead leaves . . . In the snake he saw a friend, a savior, a weapon, a creature that had come to protect him. He was not alone anymore.
"Theroux (Hotel Honolulu) draws on personal experience and literary antecedents (think Heart of Darkness) for his latest adventurous tale. Ellis Hock, 62, has a marriage in shambles, an estranged daughter, and a failing business. Hoping to escape the modern world and put his money and time to good use, he leaves Massachusetts for a place rich with fonder memories — a village in the Lower River district of Malawi, where Ellis served with the Peace Corps for four years in his 20s. But Malabo is not the quaint community that he left decades ago — the people are more suspicious and reticent. Perhaps interaction with Western NGOs has changed them, or maybe it's just that Hock's youthful optimism has dimmed with age. But the village remembers him — the mzungu who doesn't fear snakes — and Hock finds himself ensnared in a situation far more complex than anything he expected. A somewhat slow exposition and occasional repetition aside, Theroux successfully grafts keen observations about the efficacy of international aid and the nature of nostalgia to a swift-moving narrative through a beautifully described landscape. Agent: Jin Auh, the Wylie Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A taut, tense, darkly suspenseful novel about a man who flees to Africa after his marriage falls apart, only to be caught up in a precarious situation in a seemingly benign village.
“[Hock] knows he is ensorcelled by exoticism, but he can’t help himself. And, as things go from bad to worse and the pages start to turn faster, neither can we. A.”—Entertainment Weekly
When he was a young man, Ellis Hock spent four of the best years of his life with the Peace Corps in Malawi. So when his wife of forty-two years leaves him, he decides to return to the village where he was stationed in search of the happiness he’d been missing since he left. But what he finds is not what he expected. The school he built is a ruin, the church and clinic are gone, and poverty and apathy have set in among the people.
They remember Ellis and welcome him with open arms. Soon, however, their overtures turn menacing; they demand money and refuse to let him leave the village. Is his new life an escape or a trap?
“Theroux’s bravely unsentimental novel about a region where he began his own grand career should become part of anybody’s education in the continent.”—Washington Post
“The Lower River is riveting in its storytelling and provocative in its depiction of this African backwater, infusing both with undertones of slavery and cannibalism, savagery and disease.”—New York Times Book Review
In the Washington Post Book World, Sven Birkerts called this exuberant novel "a complex and gripping work of invention and confession . . . I understood again how the prose of a true writer can bring us to a world beyond." The book spans almost thirty years in the life of a fictional "Paul Theroux," who moves through young bachelorhood in Africa, in and out of marriage, affairs, and employment, and between continents. It's a wry, worldly, erotic, and deeply moving account of one man's first half century - "among the strongest things Theroux has ever written" (New York Times Book Review).
About the Author
PAUL THEROUX is the author of many highly acclaimed books. His novels include The Lower River and The Mosquito Coast, and his renowned travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and Dark Star Safari. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.
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