In some ways this is a dream review–limited, of course, because of its brevity–by a seasoned journalist whose work I have long followed as a regular reader of the Pacific Standard and the Atlantic. More than any other reviewer thus far, Wood understands that the book seeks to present a nuanced portrait of a complex and sometimes troubled people. Yet when reviewers choose to emphasize the dark side of Awajún life, I find myself wishing that they could provide equal time for the Awajún’s resilience, wit, and spark of creativity. Parts of Upriver pay homage to the Awajún’s lively sense of humor. The book is not, I fervently hope, another grim tale of an indigenous people steamrolled by Western civilization. It wouldn’t surprise me if the descendants of today’s Awajún are running eastern Peru a few generations from now. They are that dynamic and ambitious.
Update, 22 February 2015. Graeme Wood is getting enormous public attention for his Atlantic cover story about the Islamic State and the apocalyptic ideology that underlies it.