Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Relentless Madre de Dios by Holly Conklin FitzGerald

Stars: 4 of 5

I love travel and have always wanted to do some crazy adventure style travel but am pretty over it after reading this. To say that it terrified me would be a bit of an understatement. Of course, this happened to FitzGerald and her husband in the 1970’s and technology has come a long way to not allowing this sort of thing to happen but still. 

Much of their trip does sound amazing in a good way, but the book focuses in on a period when they got stuck in a raft on the Madre de Dios with only each other to rely on for an extended period. Extended enough that they were well passed wondering if they were going to survive. The fact that the memoir is written in the first place means that at least the author survived and I’m not giving away whether or not her husband did. I’ll just say that I was never certain what was going to happen to the poor man. 

The turn of events itself is interesting, but one of the other things that caught my attention was the stages of perspective shift that happened to them while on the raft. Just as any other survival story, the author moves from the certainty that they can just figure it out, realizing they may need help, and the wondering if they were ever going to leave that place. They did things that I wouldn’t want to remember in order to survive and I have to admit that the survival instinct of both the author and her husband is impressively strong. I can only wish to have that strong a will to survive if anything like that ever happened to me. 

I’m certainly giving more thought to planning to go to South America ever, though. I can enjoy spontaneity but the days of traveling without much of a plan were already pretty far behind me. This book just sealed it on developing nation ever. Not that I won’t go to one, I almost certainly will one day. I’ll just remember this and be sure to make a secure plan before I do it. 

Aside from how horrifying the story itself is, FitzGerald’s writing is pretty great. She doesn’t just talk about being hungry or the stages of starvation but really shows both how it felt for her to go through and how it felt to see her husband go through it too. When they realize that different strategies aren’t going to work, the reader isn’t just told, we realize it with them. That just leant to how frightening it was to read about. I did, however, love the little revelations FitzGerald has along the way about life and how she wants to live it. While I was looking into whether or not she did the things that she wanted to do following the events of the book, I did find this TedTalk that she gave about it. Here it is: 

I do recommend the book to anyone who likes to read memoir as much as I do, particularly women’s memoir. Add it to Goodreads here for later. 


  1. Wow, this sounds interesting but also intense? I’ll probably watch the TED talk first. Thanks for the embed!

    Liked by 1 person

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