Andrew Westoll went deep inside the jungle, looking for a sacred, tiny, shining, blue frog, and discovered that perhaps hell and heaven have the same address.
— Eduardo Galeano




A freewheeling and vividly written essay on the mysteries and longings of what it is to be human in a world of cynicism and loss — and more significantly, what it is to be hopeful, to persevere, in the search for redemption and beauty.
— The Globe and Mail

FINALIST for the 2009 Edna Staebler Award for Creative NonFiction

A true story of adventure, heartbreak, mystery and murder, set deep inside the jungles of Amazonia.

Suriname is one of the least traveled countries in South America, a little-known land of myth, magic and ecological wonder just north of Brazil and the Upper Amazon Basin. As an aspiring primatologist of 23, Andrew spent a year living deep inside this country’s primordial jungles. His home was the remote Central Suriname Nature Reserve, the largest tract of pristine protected rainforest on earth. He was sent there to study monkeys.

Andrew left Suriname once his contract was up, but the country stayed with him. He read everything he could find about the place: riveting stories about Amazonian shamans, animist tribes of rebel slaves, overzealous Dutch missionaries, outlaw Brazilian garimpeiros, a massive jungle goldmine, a fetid lake with the dead canopy of a drowned rainforest at its surface, the aftermath of bloody civil war, an unsolved murder mystery that continues to haunt the nation.

Five years later and now an aspiring writer, Andrew returned to his old jungle home on a mission to explore every corner of the country by foot, bus, boat and plane. The Riverbones describes his resulting five-month journey.

Through an assortment of adventures – including his perilous friendship with a bodyguard of the former dictator, his adoption by the Saramaka royal family, and his compulsive search for a rare blue frog called okopipi – Andrew traversed the length and width of this haunting country while searching for closure to his strange obsession with it. Along the way, he was welcomed into the little-known Afro-American culture of the Surinamese Maroons. By the end of his journey, Andrew came to understand how the struggle for human rights and ecological preservation can often vie, with tragic consequences, with the economic needs of a proud people.

buy the book

CANADA (Indigo), CANADA (Independent), CANADA (Amazon)

UK (Amazon)


Among the questions our future hangs on is this: Can we begin to care about the world’s forgotten corners? Andrew Westoll finds an answer in the jungles of Suriname, which in his fevered words contains every threatened treasure, every blood-stained secret, and every possible last chance. Great writing is borne of obsession, and The Riverbones is the pure stuff–a headlong plunge into darkness in search of the light.
— J.B. MacKinnon
The Riverbones is a fascinating journey through a landscape thick with tragedy, rot, mystery and searing beauty. Andrew Westoll moves with a poet’s eye and an adventurer’s hunger.
— Charles Montgomery
The visions it conjured to me of the country, of the landscape, of the heat and misery and beauty, was overwhelming, like a fever dream. Absolutely breathtaking.
— Carolyn Smart