The Lower River: Book summary and reviews of The Lower River by Paul Theroux

The Lower River

A Novel

By Paul Theroux

The Lower River
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  • Published in USA  May 2012,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

Ellis Hock never believed that he would return to Africa. He runs an old-fashioned menswear store in a small town in Massachusetts but still dreams of his Eden, the four years he spent in Malawi with the Peace Corps, cut short when he had to return to take over the family business. When his wife leaves him, and he is on his own, he realizes that there is one place for him to go: back to his village in Malawi, on the remote Lower River, where he can be happy again.

Arriving at the dusty village, he finds it transformed: the school he built is a ruin, the church and clinic are gone, and poverty and apathy have set in among the people. They remember him - the White Man with no fear of snakes - and welcome him. But is his new life, his journey back, an escape or a trap?

Interweaving memory and desire, hope and despair, salvation and damnation, this is a hypnotic, compelling, and brilliant return to a terrain about which no one has ever written better than Theroux.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A somewhat slow exposition and occasional repetition aside, 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 has recaptured the sweep and density of his 1981 masterpiece The Mosquito Coast. That's some achievement." - Kirkus Reviews

"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

"Starred Review. A gripping and vital novel that reads like Conrad or Greene - in short, a classic." - Booklist

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Author Information

Paul Theroux Author Biography

Photo: Greg Martin

Paul Edward Theroux was born on April 10, 1941 in Medford, Massachusetts. The son of a French-Canadian father and an Italian mother, Theroux was one of seven children. Never much of an athlete, Theroux spent most of the 1950's reading. He never admitted, even to himself, his desire to be a writer and studied premed in college. Writing, he believed to be "incompatible with being a man--money is masculinity".

Theroux, who grew up a Boy Scout and a Catholic, graduated high school in 1959 and left Medford "the first chance I had". He attended the University of Maine where he wrote many anti-Vietnam war editorials and refused to join the required Reserved Officers Training Corps. He transferred to the University of Massachusetts and took a creative ...

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Name Pronunciation
Paul Theroux: Thor-ew (which, incidentally, is different to Henry Thoreau which is pronounced like 'thorough')

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