A young man uncovers myth, history, and murder while searching for the soul of an unknown and magical place.
Andrew Westoll spent a year living the dream of every aspiring primatologist: following wild troops of capuchin monkeys through the remote Central Suriname Nature Reserve, the largest tract of pristine rainforest left on earth. But that was only the beginning.
Westoll left the world of science altogether when he departed Suriname six years ago. But the country itself stayed with him and became a strange obsession. Nestled above Brazil and the Upper Amazon Basin, Suriname has a legitimate claim to the title The Last Eden, as ninety percent of this mysterious country is covered in thick, neo-tropical jungle. Westoll read everything he could find about the old Dutch colony — wild stories about secretive Amazonian shamans, superstitious tribes of ex-African slaves, outlaw Brazilian gold-miners, a ghostly lake with the dead canopy of a drowned rainforest at its surface, and an unsolved political murder mystery that continues to haunt the nation. Five years passed, and Westoll yearned to return to the rainforest. Then the opportunity finally arose.
Westoll didn’t think twice — he immediately quit his job, gave away most of his possessions, and kissed the love of his life goodbye. For the next five months, he explored the most surreal country in South America for a glimpse of its quintessential soul. He struggled up dark neo-tropical rivers, immersed himself in Surinamese Maroon culture, and met a cast of characters whose eccentricities perfectly mirrored the strangeness of their land.
Westoll maps the natural and human geography of this exotic land while hunting for closure to his strange obsession with it. In the end, he tells a spellbinding story of survival, heartbreak, mystery, and murder.
Andrew Westoll is an award-winning journalist specializing in issues of science, travel, conservation, and culture. A former biologist and primatologist, he now writes regularly for many of Canada's premier venues, such as The Walrus, Explore, Outpost and the Globe and Mail. Westoll won gold at the 2007 National Magazine Awards for his travel piece "Somewhere Up a Jungle River" , an adapted excerpt from The Riverbones. He is also a past Fellow of the Literary Journalism Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts.
"Suriname, an almost secret place: very few people know this is the cradle of many famous football players, and almost nobody knows that these sport stars are the historical heirs of the Maroon slaves who once defeated Dutch colonialism. 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
“Compelling … freewheeling and vividly written. The book is clammy with humidity, dense with allegorical undergrowth.”
— Globe and Mail