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Ellis Hock never believed that he would return to Africa. He runs an old-fashioned menswear store in a small town in Massachusetts but still dreams of his Eden, the four years he spent in Malawi with the Peace Corps, cut short when he had to return to take over the family business. When his wife leaves him, and he is on his own, he realizes that there is one place for him to go: back to his village in Malawi, on the remote Lower River, where he can be happy again.
Arriving at the dusty village, he finds it transformed: 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 him—the White Man with no fear of snakes—and welcome him. But is his new life, his journey back, an escape or a trap?
Interweaving memory and desire, hope and despair, salvation and damnation, this is a hypnotic, compelling, and brilliant return to a terrain about which no one has ever written better than Theroux.
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HMH hardcover, 2012Previous ISBN: 978-0-547-74650-0From the Back Cover:
“Hypnotically compelling fiction . . . A gripping and vital novel that reads like Conrad or Greene—in short, a classic.”—Booklist, starred review
From The Lower River
To make the moment last, Hock peeled one banana slowly with his fingertips and nibbled it, eyeing the distant crowd of children from the shade of his hut. He was impressed by the silence and concentration of the children, and fearful, too, that such a large number could be controlled by the single older boy.
And in that running commentary in his head, his narrative of the misery he’d put himself into, he thought how the worst of it was not the dirt or the heat or the thirst—though they wore him down; and not the insects or the bad-tempered children; but the uncertainty, not knowing at the beginning of each day how that day would end.
This thought was cut off by movement at the periphery of his vision, a sliding line at ground level that bunched and swelled and grew longer, crackling through the dead leaves . . . In the snake he saw a friend, a savior, a weapon, a creature that had come to protect him. He was not alone anymore.
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