a powerful story Sep 13, 2007
This is a very good book, but not great. Matthiessen's writing is engrossing and it is difficult to put it down. However, the vileness of some of the subject matter is a bit hard to swallow. This is, no doubt, a realistic tale, written after Matthiessen had traveled throughout the continent. The movie does have an influence, as one keeps thinking of Ms. Hannah. The plight and evolution of the natives and their values is intriguing. The disaster that results from outsiders forcing culture and religion down the throats of the "savages" is thought provoking and relates to many situations one sees. The characters aren't all that likable, but certainly very real. Hazel is a sad case. The jaguar shaman-to-be is a character about which it would be nice to learn more. Matthiessen says that he rewrote the last journey many times. This is the toughest part of the book to follow; is it real or a dream? I actually did reread parts of the end. There's no escaping the depression that comes from dwelling on the conflict in the jungle. I still feel that, despite the author's beliefs, his nonfiction work is better. But this is an enjoyable novel, regardless.