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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,054 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Peter Matthiessen Narrator: Anthony Heald Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2009 ISBN: 9781455195237
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In a malarial outpost in the South American rain forest, two misplaced gringos converge and clash. Martin Quarrier has come to convert the fearful and elusive Niaruna Indians to his brand of Christianity. Lewis Moon, a stateless mercenary who is himself part Indian, has come to kill them on behalf of the local commandante. Out of their struggle, Peter Matthiessen has created an electrifying moral thriller, a novel of Conradian richness that explores both the varieties of spiritual experience and the politics of cultural genocide.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Has nearly everything--a powerful plot, a rich variety of characters, a perceptive, deeply felt view of man’s yearnings and his essential ironic tragedy and a prose style that is vivid, sensuous and disciplined by his intelligence.”

    New York Times

  • “Inventive and extremely well-written…incredibly moving and disturbing…a remarkable performance.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Matthiessen has produced, in expertly crafted and sometimes deeply affecting prose, an entertainment full of glittering color, nose-to-nose conflict, and heroic gestures.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “Anthony Heald delivers all the zest and passion in Matthiessen’s well-known novel about the hypocrisy, condescension, and self-delusion in the white man’s efforts to “civilize” the indigenous peoples of the South American jungle. Heald’s characterizations are as lively and vivid as they are varied. From South American despots to American mercenaries to self-righteous missionaries, Heald’s characters are fully realized, full of complexity and contradiction. Even if the characters are not remotely sympathetic, in Heald’s narration they’re always recognizable. And though the novel is unmistakably tragic, Heald also renders the comedy uproariously. His rendition of Wolfie—the American Jewish soldier of fortune who is a force of nature—is a marvel.”

    AudioFile

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anna Cabrera | 2/20/2014

    " listened to the first eight chapters -- and then gave up. Not nearly as interesting as In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ana | 2/18/2014

    " This book is on my top favorites of all time list. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David Koblos | 2/17/2014

    " Culture clashes with nature, the native people encounter the arrival of civilization. This book gives a few examples in the same story how this could happen. Unfortunately, the outcome is not good for either participant. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christina | 2/16/2014

    " An excellent and well written book. It was made into a movie but it quite typically didn't do the book justice. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Josh | 2/10/2014

    " I read this while travelling in S America for a couple months. I heartily endorse reading geographically related books while travelling, as it really ramps up the ambience and your immersion in where you are. The book itself is a great story and has it all -- naive missionaries, shady outlaws, indigenous tribes, and unforgiving jungle. The book was quesionably made into a movie starring Tom Berenger (but also starring Tom Waits!). But the book is fabulous novel written by one of best travel/nature writers ever. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Marsmannix | 2/9/2014

    " Was inspired to read this after seeing the fantastic movie. This book is more focused on Louis Moon's interior landscape. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cait | 1/31/2014

    " This book did a lot of things well that seem very easy to do worse. All the characters get destroyed in one way or another, but it doesn't feel like Requiem for a Dream style gratuitous awfulness - it's the kind of destruction that reveals humanity rather than denying it. It portrays a primitive society in a way that doesn't play up either the Noble or the Savage. They are fully people, they have complex personalities and complex relationships, their society is whole and intact, but there's also no implication that that humanity exists because deep down inside, they're just like us white westerners. I appreciate a book that helps the reader understand that western white culture is a culture like any other, that we're not the great omnipotent default culture that can understand and relate to every other culture. The potential for alienation is universal. I was also surprised, in a good way, that none of the missionaries' struggles over the course of the book are with faith explicitly. I think it's pretty cool to see 4 people of christian faith have these huge, different, existential crises, none of which explicitly concern whether God exists. It's easy to think that that is the only kind of struggle a believer can face, and it's neat to see religious characters given more complexity than that. So all of that is like "Nice work, Matthiessen." But then there's the last 20 or 30 pages, concerning Moon's denouement, which contain some of the most amazing and moving writing I've read. It takes the whole book to get there, to this filth and sickness and debasement, to the kind of aliveness that is right next to death... The size of the world, the impenetrable silence of nature, the simplicity of survival, the fish of pure being. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 heidi | 1/30/2014

    " dark, passionate, and very well-crafted. amazing cultural and spiritual dynamics. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Katharine Dippold barrantes | 1/24/2014

    " Ugh. I wanted to like this book. But it was really insufferable to slog through. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kim | 1/20/2014

    " One of the best books I've read in a long time. While nothing in it is surprising, the writing is superb and the characters are so well-developed. A really amazing book...with an ending that is 100% amazing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sheri Wright | 1/16/2014

    " An uncompromising look at greed and religious persecution, how human nature can become corrupted or honed to a fine point of justice. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nathan | 1/13/2014

    " 4.5, but will round since "half stars" aren't permitted. Quite superb. In the company of -if not shoulders above- Mosquito Coast, The Poisonwood Bible, and even Burroughs' often neglected Ghost of Chance, and (of course) Conrad, but doesn't wallow TOO much in being a another grim account of the Missionary far afield and His/Her conflicts and contradictions with the "universal savage"...though in all honesty, it can't fully escape some of these inevitable trappings. More care is given to an indigenous perspective (probably due to Matthiessen's well known ethnographer-like rigor). The language captures the place without getting too flowery and purple, and given the date of copyright (1965) it doesn't seem dated in the least. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joan Redlin | 1/12/2014

    " Devastating. As they say, the way to hell is paved with good intentions. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cait | 1/11/2014

    " This book did a lot of things well that seem very easy to do worse. All the characters get destroyed in one way or another, but it doesn't feel like Requiem for a Dream style gratuitous awfulness - it's the kind of destruction that reveals humanity rather than denying it. It portrays a primitive society in a way that doesn't play up either the Noble or the Savage. They are fully people, they have complex personalities and complex relationships, their society is whole and intact, but there's also no implication that that humanity exists because deep down inside, they're just like us white westerners. I appreciate a book that helps the reader understand that western white culture is a culture like any other, that we're not the great omnipotent default culture that can understand and relate to every other culture. The potential for alienation is universal. I was also surprised, in a good way, that none of the missionaries' struggles over the course of the book are with faith explicitly. I think it's pretty cool to see 4 people of christian faith have these huge, different, existential crises, none of which explicitly concern whether God exists. It's easy to think that that is the only kind of struggle a believer can face, and it's neat to see religious characters given more complexity than that. So all of that is like "Nice work, Matthiessen." But then there's the last 20 or 30 pages, concerning Moon's denouement, which contain some of the most amazing and moving writing I've read. It takes the whole book to get there, to this filth and sickness and debasement, to the kind of aliveness that is right next to death... The size of the world, the impenetrable silence of nature, the simplicity of survival, the fish of pure being. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Larry | 1/11/2014

    " This book can be read strictly as a great story; but it is hard for it not to resonate within myself at least on so many levels: finding oneself, the face of evil(man corrupted by greed and power--not a new concept by any means, but very well eximplified by characters and deeds perpetrated throughout the story as well as motives--some even done in the misguided perpetuation of good!) Feuding religous factions that are more interested in the how of accomplishing Christ's message of spreading the good word(and just the subtlety of the changing of words can obsfucate the message and magnify the religous beliefs of all party's concerned with religion.) than the objective to bring not a system of dogma but spirituality. Something the flawed main protagonist, a scoundrel of epic proportions, who in need of saving himself from himself the most, is villified rather than seen for what he is: a human struggling with the most innate question, where do I fit in? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cheryl | 1/10/2014

    " gave me weird dreams. looking for a more light read these days. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carmen | 1/7/2014

    " One of my all time favorite books. Great writing, fascinating characters, horrible tragedy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jon | 1/7/2014

    " Christian missionaries attempt to convert an isolated group of indians in a South American rain forrest in this well written study of a clash of cultures. Matthiessen creates complex, three dimensional characters and many of the book's passages soar with lyrical beauty. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sam | 12/31/2013

    " Look into 2 forms of missionaries trying to convert S. American tribes all the while questioning everything else "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kate | 11/22/2013

    " This was recommended by my dad. If you enjoyed The Poison Wood Bible, you will enjoy this, similar themes, more masculine narrative. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Annie | 11/18/2013

    " I love all of Peter Matthiessen's novels. This was one of the best. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kate | 11/4/2013

    " This was recommended by my dad. If you enjoyed The Poison Wood Bible, you will enjoy this, similar themes, more masculine narrative. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lisa | 10/24/2013

    " This book was a special treat because I read it this summer while traveling in the Peruvian Amazon, where it takes place, and met people much like some of its characters. It doesn't romanticize native peoples or demonize missionaries but takes you into a hot, miserable battle between them. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeffrey | 10/12/2013

    " An ineresting look at the effectiveness and the motivations behind missions work with the indigenous peoples of Latin America. The imagery and settings were beautifully crafted. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Ginni | 10/3/2013

    " After 50 pages, I'd had enough. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rachel | 10/3/2013

    " This is not an easy read. It is well written, but also very brutal and dark. Would like to see how Matthiessen's other works compare. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Janine | 7/22/2013

    " I just couldn't get into this one. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bob | 6/10/2013

    " Beautiful contemplation of the ongoing struggle between native South Americans, missionaries and governments, through the story of a native North American trying to find his identity. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Geneva | 5/12/2013

    " Very well written. Incredibly moving and disturbing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Win Dunwell | 3/22/2013

    " A creditable book that shares the discomfort of the lost in the environment they have chosen, possibly mistakenly, and in need of support from anyone who will provide any assurance that everything is ok. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Teri | 2/13/2013

    " It's been a long time, but I remember thinking this book was fascinating. It deals with the tragic damage that can be done to a culture when outsiders try to "do good" by imposing their own values. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Raegan Butcher | 11/28/2012

    " A flaming soul-wringer of a book. This tale of repressed and horny missionaries and crazed mercenaries pestering the wild Indians of South America contains more sweaty hysteria and seething malarial madness than Heart of Darkness or The Wages of Fear. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeffrey | 11/3/2012

    " An ineresting look at the effectiveness and the motivations behind missions work with the indigenous peoples of Latin America. The imagery and settings were beautifully crafted. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kirque | 11/1/2012

    " Too glib to say a great book about white Christians goin' to save the soul of the heathens in the Amazon and others who mean them harm, or a novel of Camus-like search of self, - how about - this is a BIG novel by a guy who writes really really well and a helluva ending. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Needleroozer | 10/4/2012

    " I started reading this book while on a drug study at Quintiles because during an earlier study another human guinea pig said it was good. I never really got into it, and it's been less than half finished for months and months. I decided to give up on it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marvin | 7/13/2012

    " A rich, complex novel about an evangelical missionary and a mercenary of North American Indian origin among the natives of South America. Despite its complexity & promise, it didn't seem to fulfill its promise. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 John Brown | 6/29/2012

    " a book about missionaries going down to the amazon to bother people and getting themselves into a good deal of trouble. typically morbid matthiessen in the vein of Killing Mr. Watson, though not quite as good, maybe. enjoyed it enough to recommend it to someone in the proper mood. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lockhart | 5/17/2012

    " Amazonia so well described and a great story too. The tale was deemed good enough to make into a movie and that tale should grip you. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Flan | 5/7/2012

    " Beautifully rendered story about Christian missionaries. The subtle and not so subtle relationships between truth and lies and the people who tell them keeps it facinating throughout, and stirred me to feel compassion for those I normally would just judge. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nerissa | 3/25/2012

    " I love this book. It is one I'd take with me to a deserted island because I know I would uncover different layers of meaning every time I read it. It's not a book for easily offended Christians, though. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rana | 3/17/2012

    " I love the author and this book was no disappointment. Some possibly racist undertones but I think they are intentional as it's ultimately a book about morality and the soul. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Caitlin | 2/29/2012

    " Really interesting novel about missionaries trying to convert an indigenous community in Peru back in the 1960s. But about a lot more...sounds weird, but actually pretty good. Really excellent writer. Some missionaries we met said it puts them in a bad light...so depends on the reader of course. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Irving Karchmar | 2/19/2012

    " One of the great adventure tales by Matthiessen, beautifully written and with a depth and wisdom that is born of experience. Why hasn't Matthiessen won the Nobel Prize for Literature? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chris Still | 2/3/2012

    " one of my all-time favorite books.. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Teri | 2/2/2012

    " It's been a long time, but I remember thinking this book was fascinating. It deals with the tragic damage that can be done to a culture when outsiders try to "do good" by imposing their own values. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brent | 1/5/2012

    " The characters are vibrant, which it makes it easy to sympathize with their plight. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Janine | 12/24/2011

    " I just couldn't get into this one. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rana | 9/13/2011

    " I love the author and this book was no disappointment. Some possibly racist undertones but I think they are intentional as it's ultimately a book about morality and the soul. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Raegan Butcher | 9/8/2011

    " A flaming soul-wringer of a book. This tale of repressed and horny missionaries and crazed mercenaries pestering the wild Indians of South America contains more sweaty hysteria and seething malarial madness than Heart of Darkness or The Wages of Fear. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rachel | 5/16/2011

    " This is not an easy read. It is well written, but also very brutal and dark. Would like to see how Matthiessen's other works compare. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anna Cabrera | 5/14/2011

    " listened to the first eight chapters -- and then gave up. Not nearly as interesting as In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carolyn | 4/16/2011

    " Exotic, funny, dramatic, spellbinding. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Emily | 4/11/2011

    " this book looks Serious in a way I am seldom drawn to. Still my coworker passed on his copy to me, so I should at give it a go. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sheri | 2/13/2011

    " An uncompromising look at greed and religious persecution, how human nature can become corrupted or honed to a fine point of justice. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Samantha | 10/5/2010

    " Very glad I read this although it was dated and the ending was sort of predictable. I found the natives fascinating. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bob | 6/13/2010

    " Beautiful contemplation of the ongoing struggle between native South Americans, missionaries and governments, through the story of a native North American trying to find his identity. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ellen | 6/9/2010

    " I think this may have been more interesting if the missionaries weren't such idiots. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 James | 6/9/2010

    " What a literary feat! Muscular writing, a powerful story, one of the most inspiring authors I've ever encountered.

    (Do not compare the film to this spectacular novel!) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Barbara | 12/26/2009

    " I read this on vacation in a hot climate and sweated along with the characters. Reminded me of Heart of Darkness. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 John | 12/20/2009

    " Great book!! great movie!! and if you like Tom Waites he also stars in the Movie by the same title. "

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About the Author
Author Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen (1927–2014) was the author of more than thirty books, including the New York Times bestseller The Snow Leopard. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1974. He was cofounder of the Paris Review and won two National Book Awards, the 2000 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, and the 2010 Spiros Vergos Prize for Freedom of Expression.

About the Narrator

Anthony Heald, an Audie Award–winning narrator, has earned Tony nominations and an Obie Award for his theater work; appeared in television’s Law & Order, The X-Files, Miami Vice, and Boston Public; and starred as Dr. Frederick Chilton in the 1991 Oscar-winning film The Silence of the Lambs. Heald has also won ten AudioFile Earphones Awards. He lives in Ashland, Oregon, with his family.