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Extended Audio Sample The Lower River Audiobook, 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: May 2012 ISBN: 9781470301088
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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 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 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 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 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Betty | 1/16/2014

    " Quite a bit of tension right to the end! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carol | 1/16/2014

    " I usually read historical fiction, so was surprised how well I liked this novel that takes place in current day Africa. Thoroughly enthralling, mysterious and dramatic. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Monica | 1/14/2014

    " Somewhat bizarre tale of a 63 year old man's return to a remote part of Malawi, which he'd remembered as idyllic from his Peace Corps days. His experience is horrific. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rena | 1/8/2014

    " This was interesting, starts out just a nice story then turns into some kind of nightmare. Some parts are repetitive, and I skipped them, but the repetition may have surved a purpose to show the monotony of the main characters circumstances. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Margie | 1/2/2014

    " Enjoyed the book. I was told that it was a bit dark. Yes the subject matter was forboding and very unusual, but not what I would concicider dark. Read this book because I wanted to see what someone tought of a "dark". Glad I did. Would read others by Theroux. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sandra | 12/4/2013

    " No a story that warms the heart in any way, but gripping in its way. It's Africa, after all. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jo Ann Bennett | 11/7/2013

    " Another great reading experience with Paul Theroux!!! This was the first novel I have read by Theroux and it was excellent. He knows how to set up a story and I found myself stopping over and over to just savor a particularly great sentence!! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katherine | 8/23/2013

    " Honestly, I couldn't finish the book. It wreaked of a man in mid-life crisis, trying to go back to a time that has now changed because, although he cannot, the town and people MOVED forward and kept on growing with the times. Not for me. Wrong book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robyn | 7/17/2013

    " Dark tale of Darkest, Deepest Africa. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nina | 6/15/2013

    " we need to rethink our Africa policy. sad book but having thinking about it ever since "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pat | 2/7/2013

    " Intriguing, suspenseful, depressing, and enlightening. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan | 12/22/2012

    " Usually a big fan of Theroux, but this one was not one of his best. I finished it only because I had to find out what happened to the main character. Theroux paints a very depressing picture of modern Africa.. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marcie | 12/10/2012

    " There were a number of things I did not like, the stereotyped picture of the Malawains and especially the "deus ex machina" ending. But I found myself wanting to keep reading anyway. 3 stars or 4 ??? "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mopsy | 9/8/2012

    " Somewhat interesting, but pretty farfetched. There is some particularly disturbing passages on this 60-something leading man and his sexual attraction to a 16-year old girl who was his servant in the village. Ending was not believable and more than a little convoluted. "

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About the Author
Author Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux is the author of many highly acclaimed novels and travel books. His novels include A Dead Hand and The Mosquito Coast, an international bestseller and the basis of the major motion picture. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.

About the Narrator

Jefferson Mays has won two AudioFile Earphones Awards for his audio narrations. He is also an award-winning theater and film actor. In 2004 he won a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, an Obie Award, and a Theatre World Award for his solo Broadway performance in I Am My Own Wife, a Pulitzer Prize–winning play by Doug Wright. He holds a BA from Yale College and an MFA from University of California–San Diego.