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Fishers of Men: The Gospel of an Ayahuasca Vision Quest Hardcover – July 22, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Author Elenbaas, a New York writer and therapist who grew up Minnesota-nice until he rebelled into a sex-and-drugs period, writes of his discovery of the curative and transformative power of the psychedelic experience. Elenbaas participated in ayahuasca healing in Peru; ayahuasca is a jungle vine brewed to make a highly purgative, hallucinogenic drink. The healing experiences allow Elenbaas to come to terms with himself and a family history of men who can't figure out what to do with themselves. At the heart of the book is the relationship between Elenbaas and his father, a well-intentioned progressive Midwestern Methodist minister who cares more for his job than for his family. The tension in their relationship is heartbreakingly poignant, and the book's best writing comes when Elenbaas writes with an observer's eye about his family and his experiences. The conclusions he draws are less than profound, but the journey he writes about should not be missed. Less about drugs and more about family, this is a book for fathers and their sons; it beats the swagger of war stories.
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From Booklist

Ayahuasca is a highly psychotropic brew traditionally used for divinatory and healing practices in South America. It’s at the heart of this memoir charting the reconciliation of Elenbaas’ wounded religious past as a minister’s troubled son with his current holistic, nonsectarian spirituality. With a nod to angst-filled coming-of-age accounts like Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries (1978) and addiction-recovery fiction such as Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son (1992), Elenbaas takes readers on a clear-eyed tour of childhood memories and hallucinatory ayahuasca ceremonies, drawing clear lines between early traumas and his later spiritual grappling. Though the themes he wrangles with aren’t new (an itinerant childhood, his father’s depression and infidelity, the glamor of Fundamentalist Christianity), the candor with which he expresses his confusion in attempting to develop a coherent spiritual narrative for his life is refreshing. To call this a gospel, as Elenbaas does in the subtitle, might sound grandiose at first. But being a firsthand Evangelical account of the wonders of spiritual exploration and discovery via ayahuasca makes it one, of a sort, and an engrossing one, at that. --Taina Lagodzinski

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Read the first chapter from Fishers of Men [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher; First Edition edition (July 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585427918
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585427918
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #687,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Kristi Gilleland TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be very easy to read. I was through the first 100 pages before I knew what had happened. The Ayahausca experience descriptions are very visual and compelling. Even the experience of the purge is recounted in such detail that I could practically FEEL it.

The story of the author, in his experience of life, is just brutally - surprisingly brutally - honest. I may not have ever read such open recollections. It kept me interested in his personal story, although I mainly had picked the book because of the Ayahuasca topic. Yes, I kept thinking as I was reading about some of his more puzzling experiences, and I really felt for him - we are all connected.

The topic of shamanism is treated with much respect, and although I have read extensively on the topic, this book offered some unique perspectives about the purpose and function of the shaman that was rather new to me.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Barbara S. Reeves on October 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fishers of Men: The Gospel of an Ayahuasca Vision Quest by Adam Elenbaas is a memoir about a young man's descent into addiction, spiritual malaise and sexual promiscuity, growing up with a backsliding Methodist pastor father, and his consequential spiritual pilgrimage to the Amazon jungles of Peru where he partakes of the psychedelic vine, ayahuasca.

My initial impression of Elenbaas as I read Fishers of Men was that this is one hypocritical, hypercritical, self-righteous kid who's too smart for his own good. He rebels against his family by attending a fundamental Baptist church and starts speaking in tongues, all the while smoking marijuana. He begins competing with his adulterous father, who he deems too liberal, and he spirals into heavier drug use and indiscriminate, haphazard on-line dating while youth-pastoring a church in Chicago.

When he stumbles upon psychedelic mushrooms, something inside him is transformed. He halts the self-destructive behavior, becomes enthralled with shamanism and is eventually driven to the jungles of Peru, where he's led through ayahuasca ceremonies by a charismatic "gringo" shaman.

Only someone who's tried hallucinogenic drugs can understand how they may possibly be able to change your life for the better. If there are drugs for physical and mental ailments, why can't there be drugs for spiritual maladies also? My own experiences with mushrooms and LSD convinced me that there's more to these substances than just having a good time and feeling good. One particularly strong trip on mushrooms induced in me an attempt to change my life while I was in the early stages of an opiate addiction. While on this trip, I saw heaven and hell, and I perceived myself clearly and saw my downward spiraling life from beginning to end.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By N. D. Horowitz on February 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I cherish Elenbaas's voice as a storyteller, and was less enchanted when he switched into a couple of other modes - evangelist for personal and global spiritual change; health advisor. In his storyteller mode, which is upwards of 98% of the book, he writes brilliantly. Chapter One is harrowing, and makes me want to know more; Chapter Two, at an ayahuasca ceremony in Peru, is like watching a gorgeous emotional fireworks display. Very intelligent stuff, conceived and carried out in the best tradition of literature and storytelling. The whole story of his childhood and coming of age is fantastic. Interspersed in there are some recommendations about following our hearts and eating less red meat. There are probably other readers who will appreciate that stuff more than I; I've just heard it many times before; part of me might be suspicious that he's playing the role of teen counselor with his readers. Reasons to read this book: clear and profound analysis of personal and family history; clear and profound analysis of healing. My favorite stories: the one about busting stoned teens while stoned himself; the one about how his grandfather got the way he is; and the story about confronting his grandfather while bemushroomed. The first one is ironically funny, the second is deeply sad, and the third is emblematic of the way entheogens can, sometimes, enable us to shift out of harmful patterns. Gracias, maestro. Keep up the overwhelmingly good work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Royal on April 21, 2015
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book used, not knowing anything about it. I picked it up and the title almost made me put it back, and then I saw "Ayahuasca" and decided to get it. It was a fairly quick read. I really enjoyed it when I began; Elenbaas has a very easy to read style, and I enjoyed reading about the ayahuasca medicine and about his life growing up as a pastor's son. The ayahuasca passages are intertwined with these stories from his family life, and they are very compelling at first, but I admit that I lost interest halfway through and I'm not sure why. Maybe there was too much about the author's years of TEEN BOY ANGST for me to stay engaged. As the book went on, I stopped being able to connect with or feel interested in the author, and I wished there had been slightly more detail as to ayahuasca ceremonies in the United States, and even the ayahuasca ceremonies in the jungle could have used more detail. I found it interesting that Elenbaas had issues with "syncretized" ayahuasca ceremonies in the United States but his whole book is about ayahuasca as a stepping stone to a personal Christianity. It really fell flat for me and never recovered.
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