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.