Riverman: An American Odyssey

Knopf. Apr. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9780451494009. $28. BIOG
McGrath, a staff writer at the New Yorker, sets out to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Richard Conant. When McGrath encountered Conant in 2014 on the Hudson River, near a small village north of New York City, Conant was in a plastic red canoe “packed as if for the apocalypse.” A few months later, Conant’s overturned red canoe was found by a group of fishermen in North Carolina; it was full of maps and other gear that suggested a long voyage, but no sign of Conant was found. Twenty years earlier, Conant had quit his job as a janitor at the VA hospital in Boise, bought a canoe, and launched his first river expedition to the Gulf of Mexico. For the next two decades, Conant canoed thousands of miles of American river alone, drawing on his naval experience to plan long excursions that required vast amounts of perseverance and courage. This investigation of the missing man’s life was sparked by McGrath’s initial encounter with Conant, which left the lasting impression of a man who—despite a life spent largely alone in nature—was always making new friends.
VERDICT An intriguing character study for anyone interested in the life of a man with an adventurous spirit and an engaging personality, who collected friends across the country.
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