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Extended Audio Sample The Lower River, by Paul Theroux Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (798 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Paul Theroux Narrator: Jefferson Mays Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A titan of American letters, Paul Theroux wowed audiences and critics with his modern classic Mosquito Coast. Its captivating thematic cousin, The Lower River, stars Ellis Hock, a man whose dreams of world travel and humanitarianism in the Peace Corps were dashed when he returned home to assume control of his family’s business. Now with his wife having left and his life stagnant, Ellis makes the fateful decision to travel back to the small African village he once called home. Yet the happiness and fulfillment he seeks remain elusive.

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Quotes & Awards

  • The Lower River is riveting in its storytelling and provocative in its depiction of this African backwater, infusing both with undertones of slavery and cannibalism, savagery, and disease.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Theroux successfully grafts keen observations about the efficacy of international aid and the nature of nostalgia to a swift-moving narrative through a beautifully described landscape.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

  • “Theroux’s latest can be read as straight-up suspense, but those unafraid of following him into the heart of darkness will be rewarded with much to discuss in this angry, ironic depiction of misguided philanthropy in a country dense with natural resources yet unable to feed its people.” 

    Library Journal 

  • “A gripping and vital novel that reads like Conrad or Greene—in short, a classic.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Extraordinary…The suspense is enriched by Theroux’s loving attention to local customs and his subversive insights.” 

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • Selected for the June 2012 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”, May 2012
  • A 2012 Booklist Editors’ Choice Selection for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Dawn | 2/14/2014

    " Mesmerizing in a macabre, "go poke a stick in road-kill sort of way". I PROMISE I will not let myself romantize past lives and roads not taken after this! Ending is a little too neat and therefore unsatisfying. Might deserve a higher rating for being thought provoking and I can't really say why 3 is where I landed. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Helen Wagner | 2/14/2014

    " To be honest, the Lower River has been a great disappointment. The prose is beautiful, and it paints a remarkably accurate portrait of the Malawian bush, but it has a pervasive attitude of cynical finality- one which completely ruins it for anyone who still has any hope for the people of Africa. Theroux is clearly an excellent author, with a keen ability to understand people and what motivates them but with this subject material his talents miss their mark (at least with me). His understanding of Africa is better than that of most westerners, but it still bears the unmistakable bias of western hegemony. Read this book- it's worth it, it allows insight into the great western mistake of believing that we do things right, that we are enlightened, and that none can match or mimic our example. Just don't expect to enjoy it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Larry | 2/9/2014

    " Horrifying book about a retired, recently divorced man who returns to an isolated small village in Malawi where he spent time in the Peace Corps in his youth. Not only does he become disillusioned by what has become of the village and the shcoolhouse he built, but he becomes a vitrual captive of the scheming village head. After reading Dark Star Safari I'm not surprised at the cynicism about the "aid" the people receive but the chilling scenes with his captor and a village of orphan children were unexpected. I'm looking forward to his new, non-fiction, book about his travels in West Africa. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Katie Llewellyn | 1/29/2014

    " As an American currently living in Malawi, I heard about this book and thought it might be interesting. I didn't know much about Theroux before this book, but googled him to find out that yes, he actually was serving as a PCV in Malawi in the 60s. But what really bothered me about this book is the incredibly negative way he showed Malawians. Yes, this is one of the poorest countries in the world. But from my experience (and granted, I have only been here four months rather than four years) I have not found the desperation and cruelty that are described in this book. Yes, it is different, I am living in a town in the Central Region, where things are quite different than where he described. But I have never once been approached for money (other than actual beggars who are asking anyone for money - white or African), nor have I ever felt any animosity. The first part of this book I enjoyed, but once he started going into detail about the struggles, the despair and the criminality that was going on in the village he was in, I started having problems with the book. That is not the Malawians I know. Sure, some of them are petty crooks and will steal a watch or a belt from the mzungus, but the way it is described: "First they will eat your money, then they will eat you" is absolutely foreign to me. So this book got a lower rating because of the way the people here were portrayed - as money-hungry, greedy and devious, rather than the positive, yet impoverished people I have encountered while working here. Granted, my work has not taken me to Nsanje, nor will it, but I have been to Chikwawa and only received positive reactions. I have met a PCV who is stationed in Nsanje, a ten-minute walk to the Mozambique border, and he does not have any of these stories to share either. "

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