Savage Harvest: Book summary and reviews of Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman

Savage Harvest

A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art

By Carl Hoffman

Savage Harvest
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2014,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

The mysterious disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in New Guinea in 1961 has kept the world and his powerful, influential family guessing for years. Now, Carl Hoffman uncovers startling new evidence that finally tells the full, astonishing story.

Despite exhaustive searches, no trace of Rockefeller was ever found. Soon after his disappearance, rumors surfaced that he'd been killed and ceremonially eaten by the local Asmat - a native tribe of warriors whose complex culture was built around sacred, reciprocal violence, head hunting, and ritual cannibalism. The Dutch government and the Rockefeller family denied the story, and Michael's death was officially ruled a drowning. Yet doubts lingered. Sensational rumors and stories circulated, fueling speculation and intrigue for decades. The real story has long waited to be told - until now.

Retracing Rockefeller's steps, award-winning journalist Carl Hoffman traveled to the jungles of New Guinea, immersing himself in a world of headhunters and cannibals, secret spirits and customs, and getting to know generations of Asmat. Through exhaustive archival research, he uncovered never-before-seen original documents and located witnesses willing to speak publically after fifty years.

In Savage Harvest he finally solves this decades-old mystery and illuminates a culture transformed by years of colonial rule, whose people continue to be shaped by ancient customs and lore. Combining history, art, colonialism, adventure, and ethnography, Savage Harvest is a mesmerizing whodunit, and a fascinating portrait of the clash between two civilizations that resulted in the death of one of America's richest and most powerful scions.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. While the truth of Rockefeller's disappearance may never be known, Hoffman deserves much credit for this riveting, multilayered tale." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. A searching, discomfiting journey yields an elegant, memorable report." - Kirkus

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Carl Hoffman is a contributing editor at National Geographic Traveler and the author of The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes, which was named one of the ten best books of 2010 by the Wall Street Journal, and Hunting Warbirds: The Obsessive Quest for the Lost Aircraft of World War II. He has won four Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation and one North American Travel Journalists Association Award. A veteran journalist, Hoffman has traveled to more than seventy countries on assignment for Outside, Smithsonian, National Geographic Adventure, ESPN The Magazine, the Wall Street Journal Magazine, Wired, and many other publications. He is a native of Washington, D.C., and the father of three children.

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