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  • The River of Doubt

  • Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
  • Written by: Candice Millard
  • Narrated by: Paul Michael
  • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (63 ratings)

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The River of Doubt

Written by: Candice Millard
Narrated by: Paul Michael
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Publisher's Summary

At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt's harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth.

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.

©2005 Candice Miller (P)2005 Books on Tape

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 Doubt

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

What an adventure!

I’ve read several books on Roosevelt, and even though this isn’t a biography, it has to still be one of the best. The info on the rainforest is equally captivating to the crazy journey.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Teddy was certifiably based.

Great story, well told, great narration 👍👍

This book taught me how much of an absolute legend Teddy really was.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • A
  • 2018-01-31

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.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Slow start but captivated me

Once the story got going out was very captivating.
The ending is very good and has full closure for everyone in the story

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ben
  • 2018-01-31

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.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great for a mix of history and adventure

Overall really enjoyed this book, was a bit slow at times but the author was building into the meat of the story. Just like The Endurance, the journey of Roosevelt and his men embarked on at the beginning of the 20th century will put modern day struggle into perspective. Worth a listen for some motivation if nothing else.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointingly dry fact based

I was hoping for a suspenseful account of the interpersonal and physical world challenges of Roosevelt’s Amazonian trip. However, the story is mostly dry facts gleaned from letters that were written by Roosevelt, his son & others on the expedition team. The facts about the plants and animals of the Amazon were interesting, but somehow failed to draw me in. There were no accounts of specific day to day challenges and interpersonal drama, and what they did to overcome them. It was just a fairly dry telling of the overall challenges and wildlife & plant life of the Amazon.

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