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Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon's Relentless Madre de Dios
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Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon's Relentless Madre de Dios

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,514 ratings  ·  223 reviews
Holly FitzGerald and her husband, Fitz—married less than two years—set out on a yearlong honeymoon adventure of a lifetime, backpacking around the world. Five months into the trip, their plane crash-lands in Peru at a penal colony walled in by jungle, and their blissfully romantic journey turns into a terrifying nonstop labyrinth of escape and survival.

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Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 30th 2017 by Vintage
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Start your review of Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon's Relentless Madre de Dios
Goodness. I struggled with the rating on this one. Going with a 2.5 rounded up to a three. These folks ended up floating / drifting down a South American river on a precarious raft with very little in the way of supplies. Their situation was the result of a cluster of bad decisions fueled by the idiocy and impatience of youth. Bad luck had a small hand in their fate but they had good luck as well or this book would have never happened. And when they gave their bags to a random toothless guy with ...more
Sep 29, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is truly about a trip to hell, staying awhile and then getting back. This is a non-fiction story about a young couple getting lost on the Amazon, unable to get help. The story was suspenseful. I kept thinking, "What else could possible go wrong?" only to have that question answered in the affirmative with the next paragraph. The story is definitely worth reading.

This did get repetitive which caused some eye rolling. And some where after the first half, it started feeling long. This
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. A fascinating account of a couple on their honeymoon stranded in the South American jungle. Parts reminded me of Unbroken when they were stranded in the ocean. Thought it could have been a bit shorter, hence reason for lower rating. It's hard to read about their circumstances but it was a place and scenario I've never read about before.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I started this one afternoon and kept reading pretty much straight thru to the end with occasional pauses, many of them to get food (a comment you will understand if you read the book). This is an amazing story of adventure, youthful foolishness, and luck (both good and bad). Try it!
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was quite a harrowing adventure that this couple took after their wedding. Holly and Fritz were going to travel the world for a year and while in Peru and just 5 months into their travels, they take a small plane from one jungle town in Peru to another in Bolivia both of which run along the Madre de Dios river in the Amazon. Their plane crash landed a short while later , luckily no one was hurt, but the only place nearby was a penal colony in the Peruvian jungle, where they would stay for a ...more
Emily Crow
This book is firmly within one of my favorite unofficial genres, "the travelogue from hell." The author relates the experience that she and her husband endured when they decided to go rafting in the Amazon back in the early 1970s. Things went wrong, and they ended up stranded in a remote part of the jungle for almost a month, nearly starving to death before they were rescued.

Travel experience from hell? Absolutely. The kind of story that makes me think, "Maybe it's not entirely bad that I'm
Janilyn Kocher
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ruthless River is a story of a couple's survival in the South American jungle after naively believing they could placidly float down the river to the next location. They might have been that lucky too, if a storm hadn't veered them off the main river. What followed was survival due to sheer grit, tenacity, and a miraculous discovery. It's a great read, if not nerve wracking.
Lisa K
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Let me save everyone some time: some white people with zero patience wanted an adventure and when their plane crashed they decided to take a log raft down the amazon instead of waiting for another one. This reads like the type of long Facebook post that made me quit Facebook.
Mac the Reader Marcus
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
The account has potential. Sadly, the narrator just swamps the reader with sentimentality and semi hysteria. The narrators whiney soft voice doesn’t exactly help. A lost opportunity - this could have been a great survival story.
Renate Flynn
3.5 stars
The hell that adventure brings, yet which cannot quench the desire for more.
Incredible story.
How I long to know the names of the butterflies, trees, frogs, bees, plants and all other wildlife Holly and Fitz saw and experienced.
Audio version is excellent.
It’s hard to tell how much dramatic license has been taken in this well-done nail-biting trip-in-hell that’s incredibly a true story - a newlywed couple have the astoundingly dumb idea to go ‘sailing’ in the Amazon to move from point A to B, when they have zero experience of rafts, place, river, weather and survival - but know that the water may have piranhas, caimans, snakes and alligators. They also bundle too little food, thinking they’ll just ‘catch a fish’ out there!

Also well-done is the
Another book full of reasons I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever explore the Amazon (or any of its tributaries):

First of all, the river is called MOTHER OF GOD!!! Isn't that enough of a warning? In the early 1970s, a young American couple (a Vietnam vet turned writer and a therapist) decide to take an extended trip around the world, starting in South America. After a series of mishaps, including their small commuter plane crashing at a penal colony in the middle of the jungle, they
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
(this is a cut and paste of the review I wrote for Amazon)

I got this book in the mail yesterday, thought to myself "I'll just read a page or two" and next thing I knew, it was late at night and I was finishing it. It's that kind of book---completely captivating.

The plot in a nutshell---Holly and Fitz are on an extended honeymoon in South America in the early 70s. A series of events (a plane crash, a town without transportation out, a rafting trip everyone assures them is perfectly safe, a storm)
Char Freund
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Intense read making it a page turner that I read in two days. But couldn’t help wondering at the naivety of the main characters. Their spontaneousness in adjusting itinerary without proper preparedness was more a badge of foolery than free spiritedness.

Something I read more about (as a nurse): Can a parasite remain dormant for decades? Google Vietnam parasite and liver cancer.

Can only give 3/5 as it wasn’t the best written tale of survival. Read River of Doubt about Teddy Roosevelt’s 1912
Rorie Oglesby
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.75. I loved it and read it in basically two sittings. My only reason for it being -1.25 is that it lacked real grit. There must have been more awful components to 20+ days in the jungle (mentally, emotionally, relationship-wise, even bodily)?

I also wish the beginning was more developed, I felt plopped in to the story essentially ‘mid-trip’ which was lacking to me. I thought she was a pretty good writer ((I might be in the minority here)) but I wouldn’t have minded a little more background and
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Spoiler Alert: plot, outcome

I know a lot of people loved this book. And it's an amazing story. For me, the delivery was flat, felt inauthentic, and left me feeling....cheated. Who ARE these people? What are their circumstances that made it possible for them to actually be on this adventure (and so many others, later in life?) And across the course of 30+ days of facing relentless terror and starvation did they really NEVER have a cross word for each other? If so, then they really need to be
Stephanie Griffin
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was not good. I recommend this book if its a paperback! A privileged white woman and her husband think they can ride the Madre de Dios river 40 miles on a raft they built on their own...guess what happens?
Maybe it was the narrator making Holly sound shrill, but it was satisfying to hear about them eating slimy things out of the opaque river while reminiscing about lobster dinners. I had no sympathy for them.
Aug 23, 2017 added it
Two young newlyweds embark on an impossible journey down a mysterious river somewhere in the rainforests between Bolivia, Peru and Brazil. They come about as close to death by starvation as they can before an amazing discovery. Their survival comes in phases: attempts to escape; resignation and exhaustion aboard the plastic Pink Palace tent; and finally a desperate daily search for food that yields small frogs, snails and an occasional berry to eat. Their rescue by two monkey hunters is ...more
Daniel S.
May 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
The hallmark of good adventure writing is the sympathetic protagonist. Whether it’s the capable and experienced party confronted with an unexpected natural event (Dead Mountain) or the individual who blunders admittedly into disaster (127 Hours), the protagonist should be someone whose ultimate fate is interesting to the reader.

There are no sympathetic protagonists in Ruthless River. The book recounts the foolhardy misadventure of a couple on honeymoon. They nearly blunder into death but don’t
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this one for a number of reasons:
I liked the fact that this was a true story, written by one of the participants/survivors of this ordeal. Rather than spoiling the suspense of how the tale would end, it added to my enjoyment, because I wasn't thinking "How could the author possibly know that?" (Which invariably happen in stories where the participants don't survive to tell the true tale)
People stranded for days on end with one day as tedious as the last makes for a tough story.
Holly and Fitz Fitzgerald, a newlywed couple enjoying their extended honeymoon, find themselves crash-landed in the center of the Peruvian jungle. Their only salvation? A small raft, crudely built from whatever materials they could find. This book had us on our toes the entire read! For our entire review - and for more books you won't be able to put down - click here!
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author recounts the twenty something days she spent stranded with her husband after they lost their way while trying to raft downriver towards Bolivia in the Madre de Dios River. The book begins with a plane crash that lands them in a penal colony in the middle of the jungle and goes downhill from there.
Sharon Rasey
While the story itself was a compelling and epic adventure, I found some of the writing irritating. There were constant descriptions and mentioning of hair, her's and his, the color of eyes and references to divine intervention that I found to be unnecessary to the narrative. While I did enjoy most of it I found myself rolling my eyes more than once.
Sandy Begley
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put the book down. Having been to the Amazon, the descriptions of the river were so vivid you felt like you were on the river with Holly and Fitz. It's hard to believe Holly wrote this over forty years after the adventure. Well done.
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it
This survival story read like a raft barreling down class 5 rapids but I still have a tough time believing writers who can remember everything that was said word for word, and details of everything that was done 45 years ago.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 1-book-group
2.5 Stars

I wanted to love this book. I enjoy true stories of travel and adventure. The problem with this book is that the writing was a bit juvenile. I thought this couple was incredibly lucky in how their story turned out. They had a lot of bad luck and were truly fortunate to have both survived. I do wonder if some of their observations about privilege was something they realized then (as depicted in the book) or realized as they aged.
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Did enjoy reading this crazy adventure...raft and Amazon should have been a clue...don’t do it! I would rate the book 3.5-4, it was hard to decide as I was so frustrated at the naive approach to such a trip.
Katie Talbott
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible survival story! I guess most survival stories are, though... LOL. I can't believe it took Holly Fitzgerald this long to write their story. WOW!! Ruthless River terrifying, totally engrossing and so well written... Read it!!
Marcia Andre
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I actually read this book in one sitting, as I could not put it down, and I was on a long car trip. It's very exciting, and the action never stops. Were they stupid or naive? Yea, they sure were. It was kind of like reading Wild, but what they undertook was far more dangerous. Still, I thought it was well-written and I enjoyed it very much.
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