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Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest Paperback – March 10, 2015
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“In an expertly told tale that is begging for a film adaptation, Hoffman crafts a remarkable, balanced examination of this sensational case. . . . [He] deserves much credit for this riveting, multilayered tale.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“With urgency boarding on obsession, Carl Hoffman retraces Rockefeller’s perilous footsteps. The result is a hypnotic journey into otherness, a wild detective story amid cannibals and headhunters. A thrilling, one-of-a-kind tale -I couldn’t stop reading.” (Andrew McCarthy, The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down)
“A bare-knuckle, adventure-filled journey in search of the answer to a half-century-old cold case: Whatever happened to Nelson Rockefeller’s son, Michael? . . . A searching, discomfiting journey yields an elegant, memorable report.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“A tremendous accomplishment-easily one of the best books I read this year. Carl Hoffman’s acute eye for detail is something to envy. And that closing passage will stick with me for a long, long time.” (Brendan I. Keorner, The Skies Belong To Us: Love and Terror in the Golden age of Hijacking)
“Not only has Carl Hoffman helped solve one of the great mysteries of the last 50 years, he has also written a page turner. An instant classic.” (Scott Wallace, The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribe)
“A gripping whodunit. . . . a powerful book that succeeds in solving a half-century-old mystery.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Terrific . . . What’s surprising about this book is not the revelation of Rockefeller’s fate but rather the author’s portrayal of a unique cultural encounter.” (Washington Post)
“Hoffman is an intelligent writer…. [the]best kind of non-fiction writing.” (The Globe and Mail)
“Compelling. Intoxicating. Sensational. Savage Harvest is a great read, as long as you’re not eating lunch.” (Newsweek)
About the Author
Carl Hoffman is the author of the New York Times bestseller Savage Harvest, hailed as a “masterpiece” by Outside and named a New York Times editors’ choice and one of the Washington Post’s 50 notable works of nonfiction for 2014, as well as The Lunatic Express. He is a former contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler and Wired, and has traveled on assignment to eighty countries.
- Item Weight : 9 ounces
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062116169
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062116161
- Product Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.76 x 8 inches
- Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint Edition (March 10, 2015)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #176,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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There IS a map of the villages and I don't see how this book could be written without going back and forth in time. I certainly didn't find it tedious. Quite the contrary, I couldn't put it down. This kindle version doesn't have the option to find out what percentage of the book has been read/remains so I kept going as I thought I must be nearing the end...and it's now 11 am.
I'll be in NYC in a couple of months and I'll have to visit the Museum of Primitive Art at MOMA. I read this on an iPad but will have it on my iPhone 6+ so will be able to refer to the book while there. This is an exciting prospect. To actually SEE the artifacts that Michael Rockefeller acquired and see his photographs will be a big thrill. I hope his journals will also be on display.
The cover made me think I was getting a book written decades ago yet the book was published in 2014 and Hoffman's trips were in 2012. It was interesting to see that "ramen" is now a major part of their diet. And the references to John who lives between two villages and works elsewhere for money and has adopted a more modern lifestyle (including satellite TV and watches CNN and BBC) was fascinating.
Quite poignant was the author's realization that despite the really primitive conditions he felt a sense of kinship and belonging to a community. He talks about how his father left behind his Orthodox Jewish upbringing and Carl and his sister grew up in a small insular household among families with numerous children.
If you like non-fiction, travel narratives, and biographies/memoirs genres, then this has it all. Highly recommend.
The book is particularly fascinating in the way it interweaves the history, politics, and culture of the time, to show how these all converge on an eager, bright, but unfortunate young man. For example, how the "domino theory" of Asian communism led President Kennedy to try to placate Sukarno and oppose the Dutch. How Dutch colonialists, trying to show that the Netherlands were in control of Papua, led them to murder Asmat, which in turn led the Asmat to take revenge on hapless Rockefeller.
The book portrays the Asmat culture to us Westerners in a way that helps to understand their world view. I have visited other remote clans in Papua New Guinea and have some understanding of this. Hoffman gets you deep into these natives' culture.
I fault Hoffman for his annoying jumping around in time, backwards and forwards over and over. Very frustrating.
And the paperback deserves a more attractive cover!
A brilliant study. A compelling read.
Top reviews from other countries
This book starts off revealing the "crime" in the same way, and spends the rest of the book trying to piece together the evidence for it. Briefly, Michael Rockefeller was touring remote islands as a young man, looking for rare pieces of art for his family's new art museum. He and another young friend go out in heavy oceans and their boat capsizes. Their two young native guides swim for help right away while Michael and his companion drift for several hours. Eventually, Michael decides to swim for it. He's never seen again. The official cause of death is drowning (with an off chance of being eaten by sharks).
Hoffman challenges the official version, and weaves three stories into one. The first is the history of the Asmat people before and after Michael's visit. The second is the story of Michael (and his family) around the time of his visit. The third are the author's visits to the modern Asmat (and related witnesses). All in all, it's a very well-written story that offers a very compelling, if circumstantial, explanation for what happened to Michael. Given that we know the crime, it would then be a spoiler for me to reveal how Hoffman has "Columbo'd" the evidence after the fact to outline his version of what happened. The book is well-researched, with a variety of different sources of evidence being brought to bear. There is also a rather satisfying discussion of the way of life of the Asmat people, making it of some interest to those with anthropological interests.
All in all then, this is an easy book to recommend. The story is compelling. The research is thorough. And the writing is satisfying. This may not win book of the year, but it's a very safe book to recommend to a wide range of readers who enjoy true crime, history, travel and exploration, and/or anthropology.