The Riverbones

“A freewheeling and vividly written essay on the mysteries and longings of what it is to be human in a world of cynicism and loss — and more significantly, what it is to be hopeful, to persevere, in the search for redemption and beauty.” The Globe and Mail

Shortlisted for the 2009 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

Suriname is one of the least traveled countries in South America, a little-known land of myth, magic and ecological wonder just north of Brazil and the Upper Amazon Basin. As an aspiring primatologist of 23, I spent a year living deep inside this country’s primordial jungles. My home was the remote Central Suriname Nature Reserve, the largest tract of pristine protected rainforest on earth. I was sent there to study monkeys.

When I finished my research contract I left Suriname right away, but the country itself stayed with me. I read everything I could find about the place: riveting stories about Amazonian shamans, animist tribes of rebel slaves, overzealous Dutch missionaries, outlaw Brazilian garimpeiros, a massive jungle goldmine, a fetid lake with the dead canopy of a drowned rainforest at its surface, the aftermath of bloody civil war, an unsolved murder mystery that continues to haunt the nation.

Then, five years later and now an aspiring writer, I returned to my old jungle home on a mission to explore every corner of the country by foot, bus, boat and plane. The Riverbones describes my resulting five-month journey into the untouched rain-forests of Suriname.

Through an assortment of adventures – such as my perilous friendship with a bodyguard of the former dictator, my adoption by the Saramaka royal family, my compulsive search for a rare blue frog called okopipi – I traverse the length and width of this haunting country while searching for closure to my strange obsession with it. Along the way, I am welcomed into the little-known Afro-American culture of the Surinamese Maroons, and by the end I come to understand how the struggle for human rights and ecological preservation can often vie, with tragic consequences, with the economic needs of a proud people.

Oh, and I finally find that frog.

Or do I?

The Riverbones. A true story of adventure, heartbreak, mystery and murder, set deep inside the jungles of Amazonia.

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