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The River of Doubt Spawns Book Club Readings on Long Island

Matinecock Lodge Hosts Book Event on April 8

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard has been chosen by Long Island Reads as its choice for a cooperative book event. Long Island Reads was established in 2002 to bring communities together through sharing the same book. This year, Oyster Bay-East Norwich Public Library is one of seven local libraries in Nassau County joining in the event which will be held on Thursday evening, April 8 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Matinecock Lodge 806, 14 West Main Street in Oyster Bay, which is entirely fitting, as it is the Masonic Lodge of which President Roosevelt was a member. The timing of the event is excellent as this year is also the anniversary of TR’s African Safari, said Theodore Roosevelt Association acting executive director Howard Ehrlich.


It is an areawide event celebrating National Library Week and Long Island Reads, an Islandwide reading initiative sponsored by the Nassau Library System and Suffolk Cooperative Library System.

North Shore Reads is being co-sponsored this year by the Sea Cliff, Bayville, Bryant (Roslyn), Glen Cove, Gold Coast, Locust Valley, and Oyster Bay libraries.

The emcee of the event is John Canning, amateur thespian and former Nassau County Legislator and the TOB commission of dept of intergovernmental affairs. Mr. Canning is an excellent choice for the project of the historical book. He has an MA in English Social History of the latter part of the 19th century. “It looks at the mores and lifestyles of the people in that era,” he said.

“The Long Island Reads event promises to be very special and we are getting seven libraries for the book discussion. Last year it was held at Locust Valley Library with about 80 people attending. There are generally opening remarks; and then breaks out in groups led by a facilitator for each; and then we come back as a whole and we share our thoughts - and I have the pleasure of serving as moderator at the event.

“We are anticipating a visit from Col. Roosevelt in the guise of James Foote. He had dinner with the author, Caroline Millard in Atlanta several years ago and discussed the journey with her. We will also have raffle prizes which will include tickets to the talk on April 13, by Ms. Millard. We encourage everyone to get the book and be there on April 8,” said Mr. Canning.

Everyone is welcome to attend. Refreshments will be served. Copies of the book can also be borrowed at the Circulation Desk of the library (call 922-1212).

TRA Interim Director Howard Ehrlich said the author, Candice Millard, former writer and editor at National Geographic, will discuss her book and autograph copies at the Plainview-Old Bethpage Library on Tuesday, April 13 at 10 a.m. Tickets may be requested for the event beginning at 9 a.m. on March 15 by e-mailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Mr. Ehrlich himself is doing a lecture at the Setauket Library on the background of TR leading up to the River of Doubt expedition.

The Brazilian trip is fascinating in that it adds another dimension to Theodore Roosevelt. At one desperate time in the expedition TR was so sick he was afraid he was too much of a burden to the others and wanted to be killed and left there. His son Kermit refused to do so and Roosevelt realized it would take his own determination to see that the group survived.

Mr. Erlich said, “Kermit said I’m not going to let you die here.”

The trip/book has several major characters: Roosevelt; TR’s 30-year-old son Kermit; the American naturalist George Cherrie, and the expedition’s Brazilian commander Colonel Candido Rondon.

The book was well researched including information from several articles TR wrote for Scribner’s Magazine that were turned into a book TR wrote, Through the Brazilian Wilderness.

TR thanked General Lauro Müller, the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs in a letter dated May 1, 1914 and “to the other members of the Brazilian Government whose generous courtesy alone rendered possible the Expedicao Scientifica Roosevelt-Rondon.” In it he wrote of the expedition,

“No less than six weeks were spent in slowly and with peril and exhausting labor forcing our way down through what seemed a literally endless succession of rapids and cataracts. For 48 days we saw no human being. In passing these rapids, we lost five of the seven canoes with which we started and had to build others,” wrote TR.

In deference to Mr. Cannining, who said, “I am reading it and am in the middle and enjoy it immensely- don’t tell me the ending,” that is all readers will see. Just to add that TR’s great-grandson, Tweed Roosevelt, made the same trip, almost 80 years later. In 1992, he followed the dangerous and difficult river and recorded changes in the passage. The river is now called, “Rio Roosevelt.”

Mr. Erhlich said there are a few books that mention the River of Doubt but this is the best book about his trip. “It reads like a novel,” he said.

TR himself is the author of 35 books. He undertook the Amazonian trip after his defeat running on the Bullmoose Party ticket for a third presidential term in 1912.