Greer's Reviews > The Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
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's review
Nov 10, 12

bookshelves: 2012-books, favorites
Read in June, 2012

** spoiler alert ** One of the most disturbing, chilling books I've ever read. The story is told from the point of view of twelve year old Charlie. His father Allie Fox is a highly capable, inventive and intelligent man, but also an abusive, controlling narcissist. Fed up with America, he drags his family to the jungle in Honduras in search of a simpler life. But Allie is a self-deluded hypocrite at heart -- he rails against scavenging birds, but often scavenges items for his inventions; he claims to respect the native way of life, but also calls them savages and refuses to learn their ways, always believing he knows better; he pontificates on respecting nature but continually tries to alter it for his own comfort (which eventually leads to an environmental disaster). Theroux deftly portrays the degree to which Allie needs to control others even in the smallest ways -- except for his family, he calls others by nicknames of his own choosing, rather than their real names.

This book also demonstrates that psychological/emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse. Allie never lays a hand on his kids, but he drags them into situations that threaten their lives, and forces them to perform terrifying tasks to prove their manhood or if they defy him. He pits them against each other, so that in the face of this abuse they often fail to turn to each other for support. The character of Mother (who fittingly is never given a name) is just as disturbing. While she occasionally speaks up to defend her children, she places Allie at the center of her existance and acquiesces to his choices and demands. Ultimately it is the children who must save her.

The irony is that Allie Fox does not realize his unhappiness lies within himself, so that no matter where he goes, he will never escape it.


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