4 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Mortiz had not really had the easiest of upbringings, he had a tumultuous relationship with his tyrannical and extremely wealthy father, he saw combat in World War Two serving as a bombardier, farmed in California and at the age of 44 volunteered to join the Peace Corps and went to Ecuador where he was an agricultural expert in the small fishing town of Green River. He left the Corps after four years but was to remain in the country for 35 years.
He bought a farm with a man called Ramon which was hard manual work scratching a living out of the land and dealing with neighbours who would use his land as their own. In his early sixties Ramon expelled him from the farm and he was at a loss as to what to do. He decides to indulge in what is called the saddest of pleasures – travel – and decides to take a trip to Brazil and voyage up the mighty Amazon River.
However, there is much more depth to this that of his journey, that is almost an aside to his forensic examination of his past life as he relives the pain of the battles that he had with his father, who considered him a communist and refused to fund him in his ventures. He spends time considering his time spent on the farm and the relationship he had with Ramon and the way that it deteriorated up until the crux point. He is reflective and angry, considering a lot of what he has done in his life has been a failure.
He has a piercing gaze at the things that he sees on his travels, the injustice against the Amazonian Indians as the modern world squeezes their lands in the search for resources, the whores who are waiting for customers and those that are trying to make a life out of the scant luck that life has thrown at them.
Standing on the deck I wait in the darkness for the first light. It comes slowly, leaking weakly out of the east as though there were not enough light pouring in from below the horizon to fill the immense sky and the dimly felt, flat land below it, half underwater and flowing away on every side in a staggering monotony.
I must admit it is not the most cheerful of travel books, he is quite introspective and frankly can be quite depressing at times. However can forgive him for that, as he is an excellent writer, something that he struggled with as he never even considered himself a writer. His descriptions of the tiny details from other peoples lives as he observes them, a man inspecting a mango that has just fallen from a tree or watching two fishermen in a small boat showing their mastery of the river and driving through garua in the dark. Personally I would have liked more on his travels in Brazil as he is such a perceptive and intense writer.