"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: Jungleland by Christopher Stewart

Author: Christopher Stewart
Edition:  ARC (advanced reader's copy)

Source:  borrowed

Deep inside “the little Amazon,” the jungles of Honduras’s Mosquito Coast—one of the largest, wildest, and most impenetrable stretches of tropical land in the world—lies the fabled city of Ciudad Blanca: the White City. For centuries, it has lured explorers, including Spanish conquistador Herman Cortes. Some intrepid souls got lost within its dense canopy; some disappeared. Others never made it out alive. Then, in 1939, an American explorer and spy named Theodore Morde claimed that he had located this El Dorado-like city. Yet before he revealed its location, Morde died under strange circumstances, giving credence to those who believe that the spirits of the Ciudad Blanca killed him.

Is this lost city real or only a tantalyzing myth? What secrets does the jungle hold? What continues to draw explorers into the unknown jungleland at such terrific risk? In this absorbing true-life thriller, journalist Christopher S. Stewart sets out to find answers—a white-knuckle adventure that combines Morde’s wild, enigmatic tale with Stewart’s own epic journey to find the truth about the White City.

My thoughts:

Every now and then I enjoy finding a good non-fiction book to read.  I prefer a book that isn't all bare facts but has a story to it like The Abyss, The End of Your Life Book Club (Will Schaeble - biography) to name a few, and now Jungleland.

Stewart's writing can make this tale seem more fiction than non-fiction but, word for word, he wrote a historic tale of love, travel, danger and determination that will find appeal with a broad audience.

Alternating between the story of famous explorer turned spy Theodore Morde and that of the author Christopher S. Stewart, Jungleland tells the tale of two intrepid explorers in two different time frames who both braved the jungles of South America in search of the infamous White City.

For Stewart Jungleland isn't so much about discovering lost treasures, but more about tracing Morde's steps to determine the reality of the White City.  Morde's journals are non-conclusive so, after much research and time, Stewart consults his wife, trying to explain the need for yet another "adventure."  He leaves her at home with their three year old daughter who turns four in his absence and flies to South America where he meets up with Chris and Pancho in the non-wrinkled blue shirt who will guide them through the impassible dense jungles.

War, civil unrest, snakes, monkeys keen on deterring the most determined, warlords, marauders and even the people native to the region can and often do pose obstacles in their paths. Practically eaten alive by mosquitos, sucked down deep into muddy swamps, and swept down rivers, they remained steadfast.  

Stewart got to know more of Morde in doing so.  It was almost an intimate knowledge, I imagine, as he walked in the footsteps of the great explorer of years before.  He discovered much, found plenty and left some things behind.

When little Sky nestled into her father Christopher's lap upon his return, she didn't pout over him missing her birthday.  Instead she asked, " So, Daddy, tell me what you did in the  jungle.  Did you find what you were looking for?" (p. 234 arc)  And, I believe he did.  He discovered that, unlike Morde, what he found was his love and longing for what he left at home.


Meet the Author:

photo credit:  GoodReads
Christopher S. Stewart is a writer and editor at the Wall Street Journal and author of Hunting the Tiger, book about Zeljko Arkan Raznatovic, the Serbian mobster and warlord at the center of the 1990s Balkan wars. Jungleland is his second book.

His work has also appeared in GQ, Harper's, the New York Times Magazine, New York, Paris Review, Wired, and other publications. Earlier, he served as deputy editor at the New York Observer and is a former contributing editor at Conde Nast Portfolio, where, among other things, he wrote about the Unification Church’s gun business and corruption in Iraq.

He lives with his family in New York.

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