The Amazon: the name brings to mind lush, uninhabited rain forests, dense with tropical plants, towering trees and wild animals. And yet there is so much more to this vast area, as investigative journalist Chris Arnold deftly explains in his vivid first book, The Third Bank of the River, a travel memoir and historical treatise on this region. Arnold couples his personal search for his Brazilian roots with the history that's unfolded along this massive river system from the time of the first Spaniards' invasions to the present day.
As he traverses the river on various watercrafts and covers the 2014 World Cup, he also investigates drug trafficking along the river as well as corruption in the police force, where men are officers of the law by day and brutal murderers by night. Arnold shares how aerial drones help track the movements of isolated indigenous people, groups who still live off the land as their ancestors did. Yet, these groups have been enslaved and brutally treated for centuries by rubber tree-tapping companies. They continue to die from imported diseases and now face new threats as logging operations encroach on their remote villages.
Arnold carefully weighs his thoughts and feelings about who and what he encounters against the difficult, violent situation that plagues Brazil as it strives to be a leader in this territory. As a result, The Third Bank of the River is an enlightening narrative that will forever change your perception of the Amazon as an idyllic oasis. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer