The Lower River: A Novel

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The Lower River: A Novel

by Paul Theroux

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | May 22, 2012 | Hardcover |

4.5 out of 5 rating. 2 Reviews
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"[Hock] knows he is ensorcelled by exoticism, but he can''t help himself. And, as things go from bad to worse and the pages start to turn faster, neither can we. A."-Entertainment Weekly


When he was a young man, Ellis Hock spent four of the best years of his life with the Peace Corps in Malawi. So when his wife of forty-two years leaves him, he decides to return to the village where he was stationed in search of the happiness he''d been missing since he left. But what he finds is not what he expected. 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 Ellis and welcome him with open arms. Soon, however, their overtures turn menacing; they demand money and refuse to let him leave the village. Is his new life an escape or a trap?


"Theroux''s bravely unsentimental novel about a region where he began his own grand career should become part of anybody''s education in the continent."-Washington Post

"The Lower River is riveting in its storytelling and provocative in its depiction of this African backwater, infusing both with undertones of slavery and cannibalism, savagery and disease."-New York Times Book Review

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 Pages, 5.91 × 8.66 × 0.79 in

Published: May 22, 2012

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0547746504

ISBN - 13: 9780547746500

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– More About This Product –

The Lower River: A Novel

by Paul Theroux

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 Pages, 5.91 × 8.66 × 0.79 in

Published: May 22, 2012

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0547746504

ISBN - 13: 9780547746500

About the Book

A taut, tense, darkly suspenseful novel about a man who flees to Africa afterhis marriage falls apart, only to be caught up in a precarious situation in aseemingly benign village.

Read from the Book

Part One Saying Goodbye Ellis hock''s wife gave him a new phone for his birthday. A smart phone, she said. "And guess what?" She had a coy, ham-actress way of offering presents, often pausing with a needy wink to get his full attention. "It''s going to change your life." Hock smiled because he was turning sixty-two, not an age of life-altering shocks but only of subtle diminishments. "It''s got a whole bunch of functions," Deena said. It looked frivolous to him, like a costly fragile toy. "And it''ll be useful at the store"-Hock''s Menswear in Medford Square. His own phone was fine, he said. It was an efficient little fist, with a flip-up lid and one function. "You''re going to thank me." He thanked her, but weighed his old phone in his hand, as a contradiction, showing her that his life wasn''t changing. To make her point (her gift-giving could be hostile at times, and this seemed like one of them), Deena kept the new phone but registered it in his name, using his personal email account. After she was signed up, she received his entire year''s mail up to that day, all the messages that Hock had received and sent, thousands of them, even the ones he had thought he''d deleted, many of them from women, many of those affectionate, so complete a revelation of his private life that he felt he''d been scalped-worse than scalped, subjected to the dark magic of the sort of mganga he had known long ago in Africa, a witch doctor-diviner turning him inside out, the slippery spilled mess
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From the Publisher

"[Hock] knows he is ensorcelled by exoticism, but he can''t help himself. And, as things go from bad to worse and the pages start to turn faster, neither can we. A."-Entertainment Weekly


When he was a young man, Ellis Hock spent four of the best years of his life with the Peace Corps in Malawi. So when his wife of forty-two years leaves him, he decides to return to the village where he was stationed in search of the happiness he''d been missing since he left. But what he finds is not what he expected. 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 Ellis and welcome him with open arms. Soon, however, their overtures turn menacing; they demand money and refuse to let him leave the village. Is his new life an escape or a trap?


"Theroux''s bravely unsentimental novel about a region where he began his own grand career should become part of anybody''s education in the continent."-Washington Post

"The Lower River is riveting in its storytelling and provocative in its depiction of this African backwater, infusing both with undertones of slavery and cannibalism, savagery and disease."-New York Times Book Review

About the Author

PAUL THEROUX''s highly acclaimed novels include Blinding Light, Hotel Honolulu, My Other Life, Kowloon Tong,  and The Mosquito Coast. His travel books include Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, Dark Star Safari, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express, and The Happy Isles of Oceania. He lives in Hawaii and on Cape Cod.

Editorial Reviews

"It''s a particular kind of frightening fun to watch evil flexing and spreading its leathery wings, and really feel it. The Lower River gives the reader just that." -- The New York Review of Books " The Lower River is riveting in its storytelling and provocative in its depiction of this African backwater, infusing both with undertones of slavery and cannibalism, savagery and disease. Theroux exposes paternalism in Hock''s Peace Corps nostalgia, his ''sense of responsibility, almost a conceit of ownership.'' That sense of responsibility, and Hock''s modest contribution to the welfare of a people he was once genuinely fond of, has been replaced by a harsher mode of operation, run by coldhearted contractors living apart in impregnable compounds. ''I have to leave,'' Hock pleads. ''I''m going home.'' To which the village headman replies, with chilling menace, ''This is your home, father.'' " -- New York Times Book Review "[Hock] knows he is ensorcelled by exoticism, but he can''t help himself. And, as things go from bad to worse and the pages start to turn faster, neither can we. A ."- Entertainment Weekly "Theroux''s bravely unsentimental novel about a region where he began his own grand career should become part of anybody''s education in the continent."- Washington Post "In this hypnotically compelling fiction, [Theroux] wrestles with questions of good intentions and harsh reality...A gripping and vital novel that reads like Conrad or Greene-in short, a classic." -- Booklist,
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