The account of a transformational South American odyssey that tested the author and her husband to the limit.
In March 1973, having missed their boat after surviving a plane crash at a remote outpost in Peru, FitzGerald and her husband were forced to take a makeshift raft down Rio Madre de Dios to Riberalta, Bolivia, en route to Brazil. What was supposed to be a journey of a few days became a harrowing ordeal. The author’s story of the inexperienced rafters being swept by a storm into a tributary they could barely escape, their extreme privation and miseries—weeks trapped in a jungle swamp without shelter, food, or fresh water—is vivid and consistently compelling. FitzGerald often writes fine, lyrical descriptions, especially of nature, though when mooning over her husband, the prose turns purple and overwrought, better suited to a romance novel than a gritty survival adventure. However, considering what the couple endured, the periodic spasms of over-the-top romanticism and superstition can be forgiven, and readers will admire their remarkable fortitude. FitzGerald is at her best when detailing their many challenges or suggesting states of mind. “Despite my physical debilitation,” she writes, “my mind had achieved a heightened clarity. My vision of life was now stripped to the bone. As starvation consumed my body, its effects also trimmed the fat and gristle from my thoughts.” Since her journal was lost early in the trip and FitzGerald had to record their trial by other means, some readers may question the accuracy of her moment-by-moment recollections, and occasionally, credulity is strained. We also learn little of the young couple’s remarkable globe-hopping before and after the disaster, apart from listings of places visited.
FitzGerald overcomes her book's few flaws to produce an absorbing tale of survival, love, and the generosity of people who helped save their lives.