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Roosevelt's Beast: A Novel Hardcover – March 18, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 1914, Teddy Roosevelt and his son, Kermit, set off to map Brazil’s Rio da Duvida (River of Doubt). What was supposed to be a lark for the “Colonel” and his son ended up almost killing both of them. Indeed, the former president never completely recovered. What happened on the expedition is the subject of many memoirs and scholarly books. But Bayard decided to take three days out of this time period and have the Colonel and Kermit kidnapped by the Cinta Larga, a fierce indigenous tribe. The tribe is being ravaged by a “beast” that kills its prey, guts it, drinks its blood, and then leaves nothing but a husk. The beast leaves no footprints, and no one has actually seen it. The chief will release Kermit and his father if they kill the beast. The Colonel sees it as just another hunting expedition, but Kermit (the Roosevelt in the title) sees it as something much more, something that will haunt him the rest of his life. Bayard has written a riveting thriller and psychological study wrapped around historical events and people and gives the reader a real existential puzzle to put together. --Elizabeth Dickie

Review

Bayard describes the toll on survivors [of the Roosevelt/Randon expedition] with wonderful dry wit...A mystery in the Arthur Conan Doyle tradition, had Sherlock and Watson been masochistic enough to volunteer for this dreadful trek…Bayard gives us a compassionate, unsentimental portrait of a son who would forever live in the shadow of a colossal father. (Washington Post)

Louis Bayard's imagination is as wild, uncharted, and magnificent as the Amazon, and his tale is as lush as a rainforest. I loved Roosevelt's Beast and was under its spell from Bayard's wondrous - and haunting - first sentence. (Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls)

[Roosevelt's Beast] never fails to deliver chills and peril in a claustrophobic jungle atmosphere…This journey into the heart of darkness strikes enough notes that a variety of readers will find an element to tempt them, whether it's the terrifying unknown or the simple desires of the human heart. (Shelf Awareness)

Bayard's heart-of-darkness saga is impressive--blood and sacrifice, primitive peoples and Roosevelt courage.… [He] exactingly chronicles the hardships of charting the river, right down to the damp, dangers and drudgery of the Amazonian jungle… [Roosevelt's Beast] is a suspense-filled re-imagining of history deepened by a confrontation with evil's supernatural presence. (Kirkus Reviews)

Bayard has written a riveting thriller and psychological study wrapped around historical events and people and gives the reader a real existential puzzle to put together. (Elizabeth Dickie, Booklist)

For the past decade or so Louis Bayard has been taking the subjects of 'genre fiction'--from Gothic murder to jungle adventure--and rejuvenating them with all the skills of a literary novelist. Roosevelt's Beast combines dizzying narrative energy with real psychological subtlety and stylistic elegance. It's an immensely satisfying book. (Thomas Mallon, author of Henry and Clara and Watergate: A Novel)

Louis Bayard's gift is to seamlessly merge careful research with the fantastic, the horrible, the sublime, and the universal. Roosevelt's Beast is an adventure story in the grand style, from a time when the rivers of the Amazon jungle were as unmapped as the depravity of the human heart--had Kipling ever turned his mind to the horror genre beyond short stories, this gripping novel might have been the result. (Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham)

An edge-of-your-seat thriller with all the twists and turns of an unexplored river, Roosevelt's Beast is also something greater: a triumphant proof that the truths of art can surpass those of history. (Kermit Roosevelt III, great-great grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, and author of In the Shadow of the Law)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (March 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805090703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805090703
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jim Schmidt on March 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
"Here was the thing about traveling down an uncharted river: You could only say how long you'd been traveling; you could never say how long it would be." - Louis Bayard, Roosevelt's Beast

I can tell you the last time I read a novel in just 2 or 3 days...it was in October 2011 when I read School of Night, the last book by Louis Bayard, my favorite writer. Ever since then I've been waiting for his next, and Roosevelt's Beast did not disappoint.

It's so much like his other stories and yet - refreshingly so - also so different...the elements of father-and-son relationships and haunting by family ghosts were explored in Mr. Timothy as they are here; the bookends of a Prologue and Afterword of a man's final days were explored in Pale Blue Eye as they are here...still there is more of horror and the supernatural here than in his others.

This book is decidedly the saddest of the books of his I've read and yet there are so many scenes of joy that make your heart soar...chief among these was a rousing group recitation of Gunga Din...tender moments between father and son...a thrilling scene in which love conquers evil.

If you read the book, keep a dictionary close by. You'll see words you may have never read before...I certainly did...and yet, when he chooses them, its not to show off...you'll see that he has chosen the very best words he could...no other words would do! One thing I appreciated so much is that he gave brief translations of Portugese throughout when it is used...so many writers use foreign language in their narrative but give teh reader no clue as to what was said...it's as if it's an inside joke between the writer and the few readers who may "get it"...but Bayard is generous and let's you in...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stoney on May 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
It has been the internet fashion lately to make Theodore Roosevelt out to be a superhuman... nay, a suprahuman, the prototype for the Americans we could have been. The truth is, TR was a man - an incredibly gifted orator, politician, hunter and soldier, but a real man who suffered real hurts and real problems.

The value of Bayard's "Roosevelt's Beast" lies in seeing the former President as a real man behind a legend. The reader is also treated to the thoughts and feelings that a son of the great man might have carried. I said "the value"... what I meant was "the only value". The story is utter crap.

If this had been a story about some non-hero Joe Schmo, I would have been done by page 50. Some horrible beast in the jungle kills in spectacular fashion and drinks blood Cool! But once the monster is freed upon an unwitting civilization, it... just... sort of... gives bad dreams. Occasionally.

Read it for the portrayal of the Roosevelts, father and son. Ignore the stuff about the monster and the interminable nightmares.

With Roosevelt, three stars. Without Roosevelt, one star for ... coherent writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Books and Lesser Evils! on June 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Title - Roosevelt's Beast

Author - Louis Bayard

Summary -

It is 1914, along Brazil's River of Doubt, a band of explorers travel deep into the Amazon. In the party are a father and son of one of America's most powerful families. Theodore Roosevelt and his son Kermit.
But the Roosevelt's become detached from the rest of the group and with Theodore injured, it falls to Kermit to rescue them. Kermit who is plagued with self doubts and an overriding sense of failure must now care for and save his larger than life father.
Alone and captured by the remote tribe known as the Cinta Larga, the Roosevelts bargain for their lives. They are offered a task for their freedom.
They must find and kill the Beast that has been terrorizing the village. A Beast of unspeakable evil.

"...The Beast, though, hadn't left much for the bugs to feast on. Muscle, heart, liver-all were gone. The man had been peeled open and scooped out like a tin of sardines. The only organs that remained were his eyes, and, under the ministrations of heat and bacteria, even these had melted into black craters, staring out of a mustard-colored mask..."

Theodore and Kermit, with only a child and his mother to guide them, go into the jungle to hunt the Beast of the Cinta Larga. But what they find, what they bring back, is a Beast much more powerful than they imagined.

"...Both Cherrie and Rondon were silent for a time. Then the Brazilian looked up.
"You are asking us to lie, Colonel?"
"I am asking you to omit. Surely, amidst the...the infinite gradations of human venality, that particular sin ranks low." The old man kneaded the folds of his throat. "What happened out there belongs out there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Smits on June 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bayard takes a fictionalized spin on the true life adventure of Teddy Roosevelt and his son Kermit on the exploration of the River of Doubt in the Amazon in 1914. The best non-fiction account of this nearly disastrous trip down a previously unexplored tributary of the Amazon River is Candace Millard's "The River of Doubt". Bayard adds a story in which the Roosevelt's are captured by an unknown tribe. To secure their release the Roosevelt's must kill a "Beast" that has been ravaging members of the tribe. They succeed in hunting and killing a large Howler monkey, but Kermit realizes later that the "beast" has inhabited the monkey; that it is a vicious presence that can work on living creatures to unleash savagery.

Kermit is the narrator of the tale and he understands the nature of the evil because he has a deeply troubled psyche himself. He has learned of the plight of Teddy's brother Elliot whose mental issues drove him to an early death from alcoholism. Elliot is not spoken of by the family, but Kermit learns of him from outside sources. Kermit identifies with Elliot as he has experienced mental unrest throughout his own life. For Kermit the "beast" is within and its control over one at times overwhelms. A portion of Kermit's anguish stems from being the son of a vigorous and famous father, although he is devoted to him.

The beast in Kermit, while dormant at times, never leaves him. By the end of his life, Kermit is as consumed by the debilitating power of the beast as was his uncle Elliot.

This interesting novel combines fact and fiction quite compellingly. The exoticism of the rain forest, the arduous journey down the river (during which TR nearly died) and the mysteriousness of inner forces which can control parts of us are well-assembled in this novel.
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