Life and death along the Weweantic

Sep 9, 2019

It’s been 46 years since Holly FitzGerald and her husband survived near starvation while stranded on a raft deep in the Amazon jungle. 

On Sunday, with the sparkling Weweantic River as a backdrop, the Dartmouth woman told participants in the South Coast Almanac’s “Walking Book Club” about the debonair South American businessman who had suggested the raft trip. (Did he have evil intent or was he just ignorant?) Of the bees and mosquitoes and fire ants that plagued the stranded couple. (You never get used to it.) And of the process of writing her recently published “Ruthless River.” (It took years. FitzGerald became a published author at the age of 71.)

Alongside the author, Corey Nuffer of the South Coast Almanac displayed a photo of Holly and husband Gerald “Fitz” Fitzgerald, looking happy and healthy shortly before entering the Amazon. The book contains photos of the gaunt couple shortly after their rescue. Although the FitzGeralds travelled with a camera, there are no photos of the intervening weeks. “We didn’t expect to make it out,” FitzGerald explained.

The Sept. 8 gathering, combining a book discussion with a short walk to the Horseshoe Mill Dam and beyond in West Wareham, is part of an ongoing effort by the magazine and publisher Marlissa Briggett, a long-time seasonal resident of Onset, to combine local literature with local points of interest.

While acknowledging that the Weweantic is much tamer than the Amazon, Briggett said she selected the Weweantic because it is the longest of all the rivers draining into Buzzards Bay.

Perhaps fittingly, there was a bit of natural violence on the sideline of the book club as one participant happened upon a large snake wrestling a just-caught eel.

Sunday’s gathering had been planned for months, but came shortly after news broke that movie rights to “Ruthless River” had been optioned to producer Matt Charman, who co-wrote “Bridge of Spies.”

FitzGerald acknowledged that there are a lot of steps between optioning a book’s rights and opening night in a movie theater. But she – and many of those in her audience Sunday – hope this one makes it all the way.