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If you have ever driven yourself to near distraction trying to trace a family genealogy, with duplicate names, multiple marriages, and family migrations, you might have prepared adequately for Lost Man's River, which is, essentially, a detailed family genealogy. And though you may be fascinated by some of the characters, be prepared to do a great deal of page-flipping to try to keep them all straight.
There is not much direct action. Except for the ending, the most exciting events take place in the past and surround the death of E. J. Watson when the now fifty-year-old narrator, his son Lucius, was a child. The action that takes place in the present occurs primarily through interviews forty years after E.J. Watson's death as Lucius tries to separate truth from myth.
The book is not fatally dull because of the historical, sociological, cultural, and geographical insights the author also provides. Illustrating the conflicting cultures and motivations of very poor whites, blacks, Indians,and "mixed breeds" as they hunt, fish, drink, and interact, often disastrously, in the Florida Everglades, Lost Man's River also traces the life, death, and possible salvation of a wild and much threatened natural environment.
With its large cast of characters, complex familial relationships, and carefully researched depictions of the forty year time span of the "action," this is a book of enormous reach. It is not surprising that it took the author twenty years to bring it to fruition. Mary Whipple
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