Rachel's Reviews > The Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux
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Apr 02, 10

bookshelves: fiction
Read from February 27 to April 02, 2010

I always have the same reaction to Paul Theroux; I'm impressed with his artistry, but the world-view he presents (at least in his fiction -- I haven't read any of his travel writing) is so bleak that I'm left feeling fairly depressed. The Mosquito Coast was no different in this regard.

Allie Fox is best described as a cult leader, but his followers are merely his wife and his four children. The story is narrated by Charlie, who at 14 is his oldest child, and begins with the family living on an asparagus farm in New England where Allie works as a handyman and supervisor to the migrant farm workers from Honduras. After a dispute with the farm owner over what he sees as the owner's unfair profit-seeking, Allie packs up his family and moves them to the Honduran jungle to create a new society, one led by paranoid, hypocritical, abusive Allie and his God complex. In short, Allie is barking mad, and the longer he stays in the jungle, the worse he gets. This madness infects his family to a degree, but not nearly enough; they remain sane enough to know that they're in a bad, bad situation. The passivity of his wife is irritating, but his two sons' alternating between devotion to and fear of him is painful to read. The only really weak aspect of the book is in the portrayal of the two daughters; they didn't seem to serve any purpose in moving the narrative forward, and the fact that there were two of them rather magnified the problem. Sort of like when you see an unattractive person and then see his unattractive identical twin, which only makes the first person look that much worse because now there are two of them.

Without spoiling the story, I can say that, as is typical of dystopian fiction, things do not end well. And despite expecting a bad end to Allie's brave new world, I was still pretty horrified. I think this is a great book, but I didn't really like it, if that makes any sense.
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