Riverman: An American Odyssey

Riverman: An American Odyssey

Ben McGrath
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Author:  Ben McGrath
Condition:  New
Format:  Hardback
Pages:  272
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Year:  2022
ISBN:  9780008221126

'Brilliant, clear, and humane' Elizabeth Gilbert 'Miraculous and hopeful' Emma Straub

Riverman: An American Odyssey uncovers the story of an extraordinary man and his puzzling disappearance, and paints a picture of the singular spirit of America's riverbank towns.

'The peace of mind I found, largely alone, on that white-water mecca convinced me that life was capable of exquisite pleasure and undefined meaning deep in the face of failure. The experience itself is the reward.' Dick Conant

On his forty-third birthday, Dick Conant, a golden boy who never quite grew up as those around him expected, stepped into a homemade boat to embark on a journey despite a gathering snowstorm. Among his possessions was a Gideon Bible and biographies of Einstein and Bismark. It was the beginning of an all-consuming odyssey by an unconventional man into the watery arteries of America, a journey to the unreported margins of society. He was to spend the next twenty years canoeing thousands of miles of rivers and their innumerable smaller tributaries, from one end of the country to the other. 'I can, and I will!' he said. And then, in 2014, he disappeared.

Not long before Conant's upturned canoe was found in a brackish North Carolina bay, Ben McGrath met Conant by chance as he paddled down the Hudson, headed for Florida. McGrath set out to find the people whose lives, like his own, had been touched by their encounter with the great river wanderer. Along the way he meets eccentrics and ne'er-do-wells drawn straight from the pages of Mark Twain, a vast network of friends and acquaintances who would forever remember this brilliant and charming man even after a single meeting.

Riverman is the story of a restless soul who was as troubled as he was charismatic, a contemporary folk hero who slips the moorings of ordinary civilised life to tap into what Thoreau called 'a yearning toward all wildness.' It is also a riveting portrait of an America we rarely see: a nation of unconventional characters, small river towns, and long forgotten waterways.

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