Listen free for 30 days
Add to Cart failed.
Add to Wish List failed.
Remove from wish list failed.
Follow podcast failed
Unfollow podcast failed
$14.95 a month
Buy Now for $42.25
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, Candido 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.
What the critics say
"Millard...nails the suspense element of this story perfectly, but equally important to her success is the marvelous amount of detail she provides on the wildlife that Roosevelt and his fellow explorers encountered on their journey, as well as the cannibalistic indigenous tribe that stalked them much of the way." (Publishers Weekly)
What listeners say about The River of DoubtAverage Customer Ratings
Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.
Phenomenal narration, and amazing survival story
Candice Millard's look at Theodore Roosevelt's post-presidency jaunt through the Amazon wilderness is...well, it's a head-scratcher. The story, that is. What the heck would make an aging and physically-compromised man take a months-long underprepared journey through one of the least-known and most dangerous parts of the world? Perceived invincibility? Absolute power? Maniacal control? Scientific possibilities? Just because he can? Probably a mix of all these.
The book is far more than just an adventure story, however. The narrative explores much of Roosevelt's personal life from his early childhood through losing his first wife, political success followed by political failures, and into his semi-retirement returning to his interest in natural sciences. The story does not follow chronologically, instead using the journey to dip back and forth into different parts of the president's past, from his illness as a child to his time in the Wild West. His political career is seen more from a lens of the personality behind the power, rather than his political decisions (for example, he was once shot on the campaign trail but refused medical rest and made a speech later that day still wearing his bloodied clothes - for maximum emotional impact of course).
The journey down the River of Doubt - so named because nobody knew where it led - is fascinating. The expedition itself was only half on the water, as the men and supplies needed to march through the jungle for over a month just to reach the source of the river. The struggles the men faced, including a mutineering and murderous aboriginal worker, uncertain relations with the local inhabitants, illness and poisons, relentless rapids and whirlpools, and starvation, are enough to get your heart racing, but this became so much more than just an adventure to conquer nature - it became a fight for Roosevelt's life, and one that he never really recovered from.
I really enjoyed the story, was captured by the adventure story but enthralled by the human interest stories about the president and his motley crew of companions. I was left laughing in bewilderment at the foolishness of the marauding men who, knowing nothing better in the early 20th century, set out with dozens of pounds of tea, 8 sets of eyeglasses for the president, volumes of French poetry, and nary a tested canoe between them.
I was most interested in the way the men around the president worried over and cared for the great man himself. Perhaps politics is on the mind, but it was an interesting analogy to watching today's presidential inner circle. This story deals with how an arguably very competent outdoorsman and expedition leader could be put so much at risk by power-hungry people refusing to see the bigger picture of their actions for the president and those around him, notably how putting the president before all others might result in the presidents support dropping away from him as people grew dissatisfied or dead. It is hard to imagine a president today taking on a journey such as this - for the time, danger, and even just the required fortitude.
I have a new appreciation for Theodore Roosevelt after reading this book. While I'm not sure I like the man, he does embody some lost element of pioneering, guns blazing, Renaissance man explorer. I think I'm ok with the presidents of today not holding dear to some of those qualities, but it shows the difference between our perceptions of importance that a president setting out to conquer nature would at the same time be devoted to his literature and find it his saving grace in the darkest days in the jungle.
The audiobook version I listened to was excellent, the narrator perfectly alternating between English and Portuguese names and words, his pace and voice instilling the adventure and power of both the river and the politics. I'd highly recommend this book.
1 person found this helpful
one of the best exploration stories
really a great book. not only really engaging story of exploration and survival, but also well placed in terms of historical context. it is hard to imagine in our day and age a large unmapped river, let alone the former president of the United States traveling down that River on a poorly planned and resourced trip. the personalities are hard to forget, with Roosevelt's unbelievable strength of character, Rondon's apparent invincibility as an explorer, and kermit's tragic life between the two. have listened more than once and definitely recommend to anybody interested in the genre.
Excellent Writing, Story and Narration
River of Doubt is a must read for enthusiasts of Teddy Roosevelt, but the story would work even without him. Candice Millard has written a book not only about an interesting phase in Roosevelt's extraordinary life, but also about an extraordinary part of the world: the Amazon. It is a compelling story told well and read extremely well by Paul Michael, who has narrated such other excellent books as Mountains Beyond Mountains. I highly recommend this book.
71 people found this helpful
River of Doubt
This work is a must listen for anyone interested in TR, Amazonia, tropical diseases, eqauatorial rainforests and the living things in them. In retrospect, this beautifully read work is brilliant because of its sheer depth and breadth. Every wound, sliver, bird, native and whitewater rumble is there for the listener to imbibe. Nearly every unique personality of the expedition party is woven into the this tale of naive and brash exploration. If you listen carefully you can be with them in the jungle without risk.
56 people found this helpful
- D. Littman
This audiobook deserves 6 stars
Once in a great while, I come across a book on Audible that deserves a very wide readership (if that is the right term for what we do). This is just one of those cases. Candice Millard has done a superb job in writing a very approachable book, in a breezy and informative fashion. The narrator is outstanding as well.
This is one of those books that combines biography, history, natural sciences, anthropology/ethnography with an adventure story. Millard does a great job in just a few passages characterizing TR -- part historian, part renaissance man, part hero, along with his less endearing attributes of being a blabbermouth, bits of excessive pride, mixed with not alittle hyperactivity disorder and alittle foolishness. She also provides good biographical information on TR's Brazilian co-leader of the expedition & TR's son Kermit, who came along on the trip a bit under duress, to take care of a father who was already visibly ailing.
In today's world, a world in which such exploration stories are rare, you can imagine TR going bungee jumping in his 50s, while on an exploration tour of the North Slope of Alaska in mid-winter. Or perhaps traveling out to the international space station (on someone else's dollar) and spending much time talking to us back on earth via a TV circuit.
Truth is better than fiction. This book deserves a wide readership.
75 people found this helpful
- Jim Snitker
Fascinating Story Well Read
This history reads like a novel. It will keep you sitting in the driveway with the motor running, or riding past your exit on the subway, just to keep listening. I had not heard of this Roosevelt expedition before - great investigative and storytelling work by a first time author. NYT and Washington Post just named this book among the top nonfiction books for 2005! P.S. I have NOT been paid for this indorsement - I'm a fan a great history told well, and this book is GREAT!
21 people found this helpful
The story of Theodore Roosevelt's dark 1914 journey down the Amazon tributary, the River of Doubt is incredible. While I am tempted to compare this to Ernest Shackleton's Endurance odyssey, the latter's expedition took place around the same time in history, it was in fact a much more protracted one that lasted years and not just months. This is a book that combines biography, social and natural sciences, anthropology and exploration rolled into an exciting adventure story. We learn a great deal about TR the renaissance man, hero, and not always so admirable father. We also come to learn about another rather remarkable co-leader of the expedition, the Brazilian, Candido Rondon. He for me was one to be even more admired and respected particularly with regard to his leadership and relationship with the indigenous people of the the Amazon.
The book is beautifully written and narrated. It is a book that I hope is destined to become a classic. It deserves that much praise.
18 people found this helpful
Enough has already been said eloquently by the other reviewers so I'll just say you will miss a truly great book if you dont catch this one. I work in a bookstore and recommend it to my customers. None have been disappointed.
15 people found this helpful
Good book overall, but a bit disappointing
The story sounded promising, but like another reviewer, I was hoping for more narrative and story, and a little less science. This felt less like a story or documentary, and more like a scientific paper. Still a good read, but goes into overly detailed analysis of flora and fauna - some of which is obviously not specifically from the Roosevelt expedition and from our more modern general knowledge of the rain forest. It felt like: journal entry - textbook excerpt - journal entry - textbook excerpt - stop - start - etc. I would have to say the story telling felt choppy and could have woven into the rainforest background better. More detail about the actual expedition and the struggles they faced would have been nice. To the author's credit, in a day without cell phones, telephones, aircraft, vehicles of any kind, or cameras, I'm sure the material to draw on was extremely limited, having to rely solely on written accounts in a place and time where illiteracy must have been rampant. Get the book - just don't have the expectation you will be spellbound by Roosevelt's adventure.
13 people found this helpful
An adventure story like you've never seen
Let's start with the end, Candice Millard is a spectacular writer, her books are seemingly effortless and not only should you buy everything she's written, but put her on your list of authors to watch. This book, her first, sets the pace for a short but spectacular career.
Okay, now let's work backwards, to the River of Doubt. This is at once an adventure story as 22 men, with little experience and less food, float down an completely unknown and isolated river, surrounded by a jungle, animals and tribes that are actively trying to kill them. Teddy Roosevelt, having finished 7 years as president and looking for his next adventure, sets out on the biggest, most dangerous and last one of his amazing life. He wants to map a new river in the amazon, one that has never been charted. At all.
You learn so much about the Amazon rainforest here. But beyond the adventure and the danger, this is a character portrait of a man who was a naturalist and explorer at heart. While his health plunges downhill and men around him die, turn against each other and run away, his attitude never wavers. His son and the expedition's guide also show their true brave selves as they resolve to finish the voyage through strength of will alone.
It's shocking, what they go through, what they have to survive, and the sheer mountain of obsticles lined up against them. You'll have a new respect for Roosevelt and for exploraton after reading this - you'll also be breathless from the non-stop adventure of the story.
7 people found this helpful
No Doubt - Engaging
When I first read the subject matter of this book, my interest was piqued. I didn't know much about Teddy Roosevelt, much less that after his presidency he travelled on a dangerous expedition down an uncharted tributary of the Amazon River.
This book lived up to my expectations. Very well researched and written, it brought back to life a real adventure story, complete with all the trials of a fictional novel with as many twists as the actual River of Doubt.
As a bonus, I found the discussions regarding the ecosystems of the rain forest fascinating. After all, the purpose of this expedition was scientific in nature.
Excellent listen, very entertaining and informative.
14 people found this helpful
This is a spectacular book. The author did a fantastic job in bringing together adventure, history and a little bit of science, with a very good narrative and great character development. In fact, it would make a terrific "Indiana Jones-style" movie.
As a Brazilian, I have always admired Candido Rondon as a true hero, and this book only confirmed my admiration. Even in Brazil very few people know much about the Rondon-Roosevelt expedition. Contrary to my initial assumptions, I learned that Roosevelt's trip to Brazil was not a mere "celebrity safari", but a real scientific expedition with scientific added value. The "River of Doubt" (now called River Roosevelt) in the Amazon basin was uncharted until 1914 and it is as big as the Rhine.
The narrator also did a great job - he clearly made the effort of researching the correct prounciation of the names in Portuguese.
23 people found this helpful