Read At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiessen Online


In a malarial outpost in the South American rain forest, two misplaced gringos converge and clash. Martin Quarrier has come to convert the fearful and elusive Niaruna Indians to his brand of Christianity. Lewis Moon, a stateless mercenary who is himself part Indian, has come to kill them on behalf of the local comandante.Out of their struggle Peter Matthiessen has createdIn a malarial outpost in the South American rain forest, two misplaced gringos converge and clash. Martin Quarrier has come to convert the fearful and elusive Niaruna Indians to his brand of Christianity. Lewis Moon, a stateless mercenary who is himself part Indian, has come to kill them on behalf of the local comandante.Out of their struggle Peter Matthiessen has created an electrifying moral thriller, a novel of Conradian richness that explores both the varieties of spiritual experience and the politics of cultural genocide....

Title : At Play in the Fields of the Lord
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780679737414
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

At Play in the Fields of the Lord Reviews

  • Abby
    2018-12-09 10:38

    My favorite book ever, at least so far as I recall. Protestant missionaries, Catholic missionaries, and a Lakota con-man turned his own sort of missionary in the Amazon jungle. Everyone's flawed, everyone has a plan to save the Natives, and everyone loses their minds a bit. The most likeable character turns out to be the hellfire and brimstone Protestant missionary. They made a good movie of it, too, but the scenes on mind-altering drugs don't work so well in there. Peter Matthieson is the man, but stay away from his short stories -- they suck.If you liked The Poisonwood Bible, well, this is better (but obviously not if you're going for a history of the Congo).

  • Cameron
    2018-12-03 12:33

    I read this book twice, in 1989 in Africa and in 1996 in Brazil, then I spent five years among the Yanomami Indians and was able to experience many of the things described in the story. I recently listened to the audiobook version and found it moving, fascinating and thought-provoking. Anthony Heald does a great job with voices and accents, speaks the Spanish parts well and does a good job rendering the Niaruna language. As a story, it is brilliantly told; Matthiessen's prose is vivid and his characters are richly crafted. The events are as tragic as anything in Shakespeare, but they are close to real life in their dimensions and horror. I have met many missionaries like the ones in this book, and a few mercenaries like Wolfie. The descriptions of life in the Amazon are precise and accurate; the book's depictions of indigenous peoples are marvelously evocative. No other book that I've read paints a clearer picture of the conflict between civilization and nature.

  • Jennifer Hughes
    2018-11-27 14:20

    I realize this is an amazing piece of literature, but every time I pick it up, my heart breaks again. That is the mark of a brilliant author, but I just can't bear to keep feeling like this!Prepare yourself, if you embark on this journey, for a descent into the worst outcomes for the evil and even the well-intentioned. This is a world of madness, hallucination, and multiple realities. The story is a kind of celebratory dance of darkness: crude language, addictions, lust, murder, genocide, rape, betrayal, insanity, loss of faith.This novel is comparable to Heart of Darkness and The Poisonwood Bible. The Amazon itself is the true main character here as a heavy, dark, visceral, and eery force that pervades and smothers. I felt as if a hot, wet, heavy wool blanket were wrapped around my head.Although the book is so disturbing, Matthiessen's prose is so luscious, I have made myself linger to savor it: "The sun grew swollen, lost its outline, turning the sky from limpid blue to dull cooked white, like a gigantic frying egg, until the sun itself turned a sick white, in a white sky." "Wolfe lay down on his bed without taking off his boots and fell asleep, a surprised expression on his face, mouth slightly open, and the handle of his knife protruding like an iron nose between the buttons of his twisted shirt. Moon sank down slowly on the edge of the other bed and contemplated the round face and the roistering beard, the inseparable earring and dark glasses and beret like grotesque toys." I opened to a couple of random pages and found those little gems. The whole book is like that.I skimmed ahead so I know what I'm missing by stopping now. It truly is a brilliant piece of literature, but I just don't want to stay in this hellish world with these tragic people anymore.

  • Roger Brunyate
    2018-11-27 15:46

    In the Heart of a Different DarknessMy only previous encounter with the late Peter Matthiessen was his final novel, In Paradise, which impressed me immensely. So I went back almost fifty years to this novel of 1965, and was thrilled to see many of the same themes, yet treated in a strikingly different way. The protagonist of In Paradise attends a conference on the site of Auschwitz; a Gentile among Jews, he is joined by those of other faiths and some of no faith at all, none of which emerges unscathed from the moral issues that are raised. In At Play, Matthiessen tackles another genocide, or at least a potential one—that of Indian tribes in the upper Amazon—viewing it through the eyes of several different Christian missionaries, as well as at least one non-believer who may exhibit a truer humanity than any of them.In the opening scene, Martin Quarrier, his wife Hazel, and nine-year-old son Billy fly over what I take to be the Peruvian Andes to a small frontier town on the headwaters of the Amazon. Martin is an evangelical missionary from North Dakota, sent to convert the Niaruna (four syllables), a savage tribe on the Espíritu river. He is met by his immediate superior, Leslie Huben, a gung-ho perennial boy scout, and his beautiful wife Andy. Also at the airstrip is Padre Xantes, representative of what Leslie persists in calling the Opposition, and the local administrator, Commandante Guzmán, a venial character whose comic manner conceals a real danger. Parked on the field, Martin notices a beat-up aircraft with "Wolfie & Moon Inc., Small Wars & Demolition" painted on the side. This belongs to two soldiers of fortune, nominally American, but persona-non-grata in most countries that they go; Guzmán intends to use them for his own conquest of the Niaruna. Between them, these nine people (but especially Martin Quarrier and Lewis Moon) comprise most the cast of the rest of this substantial novel, other than the indigenous characters that will play an increasingly important part later on.Matthiessen wrote this some three decades before Barbara Kingsolver came out with The Poisonwood Bible, that other now-classic novel about a missionary venture gone wrong, and I am sure that comparisons will have been made. The back cover makes the inevitable link with the Conrad of Nostromo and of course Heart of Darkness. But the author I thought of most strongly at first was Graham Greene, especially in the scenes involving Padre Xantes, whose debates with the evangelicals are a masterpiece of theology disguised as worldly comedy. But he is a relatively minor character. Matthiessen's main focus among the Christians is the dynamic that grows between Martin, Hazel, Leslie, and Andy, as each reacts in different ways to the conditions in which they find themselves. I know the Les Hubens of the world from years of listening to delegates to the Worldwide Missionary Convention that was one of the summer highlights of my seaside town while I was growing up, and have long since come to see through their rhetoric. At first, I thought that Martin would be made out of the same stuff, but no: he is too brave, too intelligent, and too honest:You see, a man like me, a cautious man, has his life all figured out according to a pattern, and then the pattern flies apart. You run around for a while trying to repair it, until one day you straighten up again with an armful of broken pieces. […] I needed badly to talk to someone who didn't refer each problem to the Lord.This is Martin talking near the end of the book to Lewis Moon, who is in many ways his spiritual opposite, but is perhaps the most like him as a man. Moon plays a fascinating role in the novel, and may actually turn out to be its real protagonist. Conrad went upriver, glimpsed the fringe of his Heart of Darkness, and retreated exclaiming, "The horror, the horror!" Matthiessen, on the other hand, goes deep inside. In a series of chapters that may make or break the book for many readers, the author uses Moon as a kind of spirit guide, first into the recesses of his own psyche in a near-fatal overdose of a hallucinogenic drug, and then by having him penetrate the tribe of the Niaruna themselves. I won't say how this comes about, but the sections among the Indios raise ethical issues at a more basic level that makes the concerns of the missionaries seem petty and self-serving. Moon is half Cherokee, though he feels himself to have been a bad one; this background gives him a respect for tribal ways that the others simply do not possess. We must not forget, too, that Matthiessen is an award-winning naturalist and ethnographer; while his account of life among the Niaruna is presumably imaginary, it is imagination guided by observation and intelligence.As in life, this story is a tragedy. Several of the original nine characters will end up dead or incapacitated. Some faiths will be lost or shaken. It is clear that the cards are stacked against the Niaruna or other tribes retaining their way of life intact. Yet I admired the way that Matthiesen ended the novel on a moment of balance. It would have been so easy for him merely to condemn or squeeze out his last drop of blood. I found his alternative, in the last three or four chapters, both moving and beautiful.

  • Dan
    2018-11-25 14:31

    I never was able to shake the feeling that there was something missing in this novel. Maybe it was a soul or heart that it lacked? Hard to say because it was, at times, quite beautiful, and the ending was very well done, but I felt empty after I was done with the book.One of the biggest problems I had with the book was that the characters felt very thin. Even Moon, who was written as a 'complicated man' never jumped off of the page and no amount of discussion between Wolf and Andy at the end about his mysteriousness was going to change that. And Moon was probably the biggest issue I had here; he seemed just too damn convenient as a character. His Plains Indian background never felt like more than an excuse to talk about how bad the native peoples of the Americas have been treated and how poorly we ever understood their cultures. I would have been much more interested had the book been about his back story only.I did, however, like Wolf, though I have to admit to always imagining him in my mind as played by Tom Waits from the film. Still, he was the only real character in the book and I really felt for him. He really was a very lonely man who acted tough (and could be tough, too) but he loved the people he let in.Hazel would have been a great character, too but she was a serious missed opportunity. I could almost feel Matthiessen's hatred and judgment of a certain type of American mid-western Christian woman. She got off to a great start and seemed like she was going to be worth exploring, but she nearly ruined the entire book. The only thing I enjoyed her doing was when she hated her husband for being so good, for being so much like Jesus. That was a great thing for a missionary to say.As for everyone else: Martin was painfully dull and boring, Leslie was thinner than water, and while Andy had the most potential, she never went anywhere. Even Matthiessen just leaves her sitting at a table staring into nothing at the end. Uyuyu, I'll admit was rather good, but he wasn't used enough and Father Xantes was just never tied down to anything I felt was relevant beyond an allegory for the Catholic Church in this part of the world. The novel is well written and some passages are very beautiful - the opening scene of the airplane is stunning - but it never adds up to much more than a story that is supposed to be sad but just winds up being sort of flat. And it's a shame, too because there was a real opportunity to explore some very interesting ideas, but perhaps this is material only Joseph Conrad would have known what to do with. And this novel does feel very often as if Conrad is standing over Matthiessen as he wrote it - the subject matter, the rough men as outlaws, the (sometimes here) very beautiful language, though Matthiessen's language never reaches the same depth as Conrad; he's no master wordsmith, but rather just a good putter-togetherer-of-words. In the end I do not feel as if I learned anything insightful about Christian missionaries, about native Amazon Indians, about South American politics (the parallel story of Guzman reads like a bad Hollywood movie), nor about the larger issues of faith and acceptance. I felt like we never really left that plane in the beginning and we only ever saw glimpses through the jungle canopy.

  • Larry
    2018-11-26 11:49

    This book can be read strictly as a great story; but it is hard for it not to resonate within myself at least on so many levels: finding oneself, the face of evil(man corrupted by greed and power--not a new concept by any means, but very well eximplified by characters and deeds perpetrated throughout the story as well as motives--some even done in the misguided perpetuation of good!) Feuding religous factions that are more interested in the how of accomplishing Christ's message of spreading the good word(and just the subtlety of the changing of words can obsfucate the message and magnify the religous beliefs of all party's concerned with religion.) than the objective to bring not a system of dogma but spirituality. Something the flawed main protagonist, a scoundrel of epic proportions, who in need of saving himself from himself the most, is villified rather than seen for what he is: a human struggling with the most innate question, where do I fit in?

  • Daren
    2018-12-07 07:22

    This is the first of Peter Matthiessen's fiction books I have read, having read a couple of his non-fiction books and enjoyed them.I wasn't sure whether I would like this - but Matthiessen's characters, so flawed and so realistic, in the setting of the jungles of the Amazon amongst savage native Indians - fantastic stuff.The infantile feuding between Protestant and Catholic missionaries, all either corrupt, fooling themselves, blinded to their own ambition, or miserable in themselves. A couple of mercenaries, trapped in the town with their passports confiscated. Mind altering ayahuasca, the native hallucinogenic drug. The local el comandante, wielding power over whoever he can, and an array of Indians - from the wild to the tame.The writing is vivid, the scenery is atmospheric, and the native way of life comes across as accurate and realistic.Four stars.

  • AC
    2018-12-04 13:32

    I liked this book, a great story, and Matthiessen's description of life in the Amazon jungle and of the Niaruna is fascinating. At the same time, some of the writing is pretty (shockingly) hokey. So while I'd like to give this 4-stars, I can't quite do it.

  • Alphawoman
    2018-11-16 10:25

    Imagine my surprise as I groped through the aisle of the library, seemingly in the "M" section when I came upon several of Peters books in the fiction section. I thought he only wrote nonfiction. I picked this book of the three or so offerings and laid it on the stack I was accumulating for the weeks reading.As I began to read I immediately became sucked in and totally immersed in the story, the setting, the characters. It began to occur to me, about midway through, that this book reminds me of the countless books as a child I eased out of the library under the watchful nose of my Mom and read under the cover of my room, at night while the family slept but I could not. I would be totally immersed in the story, spellbound by the world out there I knew nothing about, fretted over the emotions and needs of adults that I could only hope to someday understand.Obscure books that no one else read, but were life changing for me.This was a good book, one I could not put down and turned the pages greedily. Mr. M's prose is astounding and tender. One line went like this...we found ourselves like butterflies pinned to the trays of our mortality....The characters were, each and every one, fascinating. Though the central character, Moon was someone that I wanted to overcome the hand life had dealt him and in the end perhaps he was the only one who had successfully been reborn, redeemed, saved.Fascinating book, lot of topics to give thought to such as forcing our idea of a Higher Power that is better, more redeeming than the "savages" idea of a higher power. Who exactly are the savages here? The love between Wolfie and Moon, a manly love, one of desire and two halves making a whole.A study of faith and loss. Everyone looses. Even Moon, who lost so much to end up in the god forsaken back waters of So America, somehow overcomes in the end. As does Andy, as does Martin, who ends his life work as a martyr killed by one of the converts.I'm certain there is much more to this parable, this warning, this deep story layered with subtle preaching and astonishing revelations.I will be searching out rather than stumbling upon more or Mr's books.

  • Robert
    2018-11-20 13:44

    For me, lots of books start out strongly and then fizzle out towards the end. This one, though, felt almost the opposite. It started out slowly, and I was dubious that I was going to like it, but it seemed to pick up strength as it went along, and by the time I finished, I loved it.The subject matter is one that really fascinates me: isolated indigenous tribes. This particular one is in some unspecified place in South America. Probably Bolivia. The setting actually feels more like Brazil, but it's somewhere where Spanish is spoken, rather than Portuguese.The story focuses on three main groups of people: a barely contacted indigenous South American tribe, whose previous contacts with the modern world have been mostly negative, some gung-ho Christian missionaries, who refuse to take no for an answer, and two down-on-their-luck smugglers/mercenaries who are stuck in the middle of nowhere, and looking for a way to get out.This is the kind of book that could have easily turned into a polemic about all kinds of topics, as it touches on so many subjects that bring out such strong feelings in people: religion and technology and what the modern world has done to us. Instead, Matthiessen manages to keep the story squarely focused on the characters, who are developed with a great deal of nuance and sympathy.

  • kate
    2018-11-28 08:37

    I've been wanting to read a Peter Matthiessen novel for such a long time. I started to read one several years ago - the one about Nepal - but after I'd read fifty pages I realized I would like it one day but that I couldn't concentrate enough to enjoy it then. I have fewer excuses and fewer distractions these days, so I persevered this time. Through the lines and lines of words, so many words. Sometimes I had to skim just to keep moving through paragraphs, which makes me think admire Matthiessen's writing at the same time it makes me not want to read another novel by him for a while.At Play in the Fields of the Lord is about missionaries and native people in the jungles of South America, and it reminded me of The Poisonwood Bible, though it was written before TPB. Both novels depict the missionaries and their families as troubled and having to survive through experiences that make them question their faith. There is also an American Indian character who lives with the jungle Indians and lets them believe that he is a spirit-god. The story and the characters were complex but not too complicated, and I think it would be a fun book to read and write about analytically, but I wish the person who read my copy before me had kept her notes to herself.

  • J.K. Grice
    2018-12-14 07:24

    The movie version of AT PLAY IN THE FIELDS OF THE LORD was very good. However, the novel left a lot to be desired. The plot becomes too fragmented, and the characters are vague and mostly unappealing. For some reason, various books published in the late 60's or early 70's feel a need to show us characters tripping out on drugs or being affected by narcotics in some way. Okay, drug use was a sign of the times or part of the sub-culture during that time period, but so what? The drug induced states come across as a huge distraction in Matthiessen's book. Forget the book and watch the film.

  • Penny
    2018-11-23 15:24

    What an overwhelming story - this novelist picks you up and turns you inside out. I would hesitate to criticize the sincerity of the Christian missionaries. From my Christian perspective I was intrigued by the verbal sword play between the "evangelicos" and the Catholic priest that the author meted out in various parts of the book, and I was reminded of the all too recent near-enmity between Protestant and Catholic branches of Christianity. On a different level, Lewis Moon's American Indian character nags at one's conscience. Of the women, Hazel appears to be the more enigmatic, but by the end of the book the reader realizes that Andy is more disturbing, even, than Hazel. The descriptions of the rain forest ... "The clearing scarred a wall of jungle which could not be held in check; the green absorbed both fire and machete, flowing back across the tangle of ugly blackened stumps to close the wound. The huts fought off rank weeds and thick lianas which crept up from behind, and the interiors were infiltrated by pale tentacles, squalid liverwort and creeping fungi." The characters and the plot seem to match the fierceness of the jungle.

  • Ties
    2018-11-19 10:24

    Interesting, real and captivating, but ultimately not my type of book. It's depressing and underscores man's worst aspects. Perhaps that makes it a good book but for me it was 3 stars. I simply thought it was not enjoyable.

  • Sarah Sammis
    2018-11-28 14:34

    Author Peter Matthessen is a naturalist and documentary filmmaker. At Play in the Fields of the Lord is a novel set in the Amazon. The same year he wrote the novel he also worked on the famous but somewhat controversial documentary Dead Birds.At Play in the Fields of the Lord is another take on Heart of Darkness. A mercinary and a family of missionaries both come to a remote village for polar oppsoite reasons leaving the villagers in a tug of war. As with Conrad's tale, fantasticism ultimately destroys the fanatic.Matthiessen's version of the dark journey up river is a far more straightforward narrative to Conrad's. I liked At Play in the Fields of the Lord more than I did Heart of Darkness but I still find the themes rather hard to swallow.Readers who have enjoyed Barbara Kinsolver's Poisonwood Bible will probably like At Play in the Fields of the Lord.

  • Eugene
    2018-12-12 12:49

    A penetrating, visceral novel that plays out in a backwater hell-hole village deep in the Bolivian Amazon. The cast of characters includes fundamentalist Christian missionaries, a drunken and thoroughly debauched military commander, two professional mercenaries, and a tribe of pre-contact Amazonian tribesman. This amazing ensemble sets the stage for deep, and often profoundly disturbing insights into the nature of the human mind, the ambiguities surrounding moral behavior, and our capacity for both intentional and unintentional evil. A must-read book that is simultaneously penetrating and entertaining. Not for the faint of heart.The book's utter authenticity derives from Matthiessen's own travels in South America during a year-long assignment for The New Yorker magazine. It was made into a film directed by Hector Barbenco("The Kiss of the Spider Woman").

  • Kate
    2018-11-25 07:22

    Brilliant. Such earthily irreverent work reminds me of Tom Robbins at his best.A family comes to Remate del Males to help expand the missionary founded by a young couple. The missionaries want to save the natives not only from their paganism but also from the catalicos who have been in the jungles of South America for hundred of years. The natives are particularly resistant to conversion and somewhat adept at playing both sides. And Lewis Moon is a Native American from South Dakota who leads a shady life and the local government official of the district won’t let him leave the area.The earth tones in which Matthiessen portrays these people in their pride, short-sightedness, bumbling, sometimes sincerity is graphic and tragic, and blind-siding. And beautiful.

  • Suzanne
    2018-12-15 14:46

    I agree with a previous reviewer that this is similar in theme to Conrad's Heart of Darkness. A group of American evangelical missionaries move to the Amazon to convert the natives. This is a dark story leaving the reader with more questions than answers. The prose is excellent (albeit lengthy at times) and the characters are well-developed. The film version is superb and has an outstanding cast including a scene with Kathy Bates that is one of the greatest performances ever done on screen.

  • Raegan Butcher
    2018-11-20 10:28

    A flaming soul-wringer of a book. This tale of repressed and horny missionaries and crazed mercenaries pestering the wild Indians of South America contains more sweaty hysteria and seething malarial madness than Heart of Darkness or The Wages of Fear.

  • Rob
    2018-11-20 08:21

    The 1991 film, memorable but sadly overlooked, and a pretty successful adaptation with a well-chosen cast, still can't touch the mastery of this novel. In fact, this is almost a textbook case of novel vs film as media. The film can give you the images (and it does, gorgeously) and it can add real-time depth to conversations and underscore certain scenes with the use of music and pacing (again, the film uses music reasonably well). What it cannot do, however, is give you the in-built contradictions of the human mind. Or it can, but only in fleeting moments. The novel takes you into that mind, and here Matthiessen is not parsimonious in his choice of POV. He gives us several glimpses into his characters, moving them around much like a film director, giving them a scene, slipping them back into the background, bringing them back in the next act. The end result is spellbinding. It is colonialism, but non-profit colonialism. The colonists see themselves as good guys, as givers. They are deluded, and all but one get to see that. The child placed in danger is their only real point of connection with the Indians, his innocence and enthusiasm a magnet for consensus in a way that the absurdly grotesque internecine fighting of the Catholics and Protestants could never possibly be.Lewis Moon, the half-Indian played by Tom Berenger in the film, is a wonderful character, an educated, cynical, magnetic and complicated individual who has to all intents and purposes dropped out of the rat race and now 'finds himself' after a trip, deciding to fly on a suicidal dawn reconnaissance mission over the Niaruna Indians and then present himself to them as a god/spirit. Then he joins them and lives their lives, with all this involves. Meanwhile the missionaries want souls to save and could care less about the bodies that house them. Arrogant and nerdy at once, they recoil from the drinking and whoring chancers who are alongside them at the hotel. But they are also fascinated by them. Western society plays its cards: nerdy good folk vs 'cool' bad folk. But the bad folk have a much more balanced view of the Indians. Or do they?The beauty of this novel is that it never takes the easy route. It questions its characters and us at every turn. Everyone learns except Leslie. Everyone has to consider that the answers that seem easy in North Dakota, out here in the jungle are the cause of death and disappointment. Religion gets a bad rap, but largely because of the use to which it is put. It is the externalising of religion, its crusading zeal, that generally creates the evil done in its name. No religion is without its dark spots (indeed the Niaruna are more cruel and mysogynistic than their Christian counterparts) but there is never a blanket condemnation of religion as such. People need to believe in something, but many also seem to need to force others to believe in their particular version of that thing.The novel is wholheartedly recommended, the film is an interesting and surprisingly faithful rendering of it, and the issues given space in either will perhaps reverberate for time to come within the reader/spectator. At least it is doing so for me.

  • Corey
    2018-11-28 10:47

    I don’t know why this book rubbed me so totally the wrong way. Normally I love to get all riled up about the arrogance and audacity of missionaries and to lament the state of the world today because those people thought they were doing someone a favor by forcing Jesus on them. My Mom recommended this book to me when we were discussing Mosquito Coast and the Poisonwood Bible, both of which I loved. So why did this one not have the same effect?The plot and cast of characters of this book were quite interesting. The main characters were Martin Quarrier, an American missionary who took his wife and child out to the Amazon to try to “save” the Niaruna tribe of Indians, and Lewis Moon, a well-educated American Indian expat who, complicatedly, ended up joining the Niaruna that Quarrier was trying to convert. The two sides – the missionaries and the Indians – butted heads throughout the novel, and there was lots of sex, violence and self-righteousness. I think what really got to me about this book was the writing style. For one thing, the book felt endless. I had to renew it from the library 3 times (21 days per time). Secondly, the writing itself was strangely unclear. The way things were phrased often left me not completely understanding what had happened. I had a hard time following the chronology and the significance of some of the events which kind of just annoyed me. For example, near the end when Moon had been living with the Niaruna for a while, I had no idea whether he could speak their language fluently or not. In many of the exchanges between the Niaruna and the missionaries, I had no idea what language they were speaking. When Quarrier’s son died, was it really blackwater fever and why did he refuse to have him taken out of the jungle – because he knew that Billy was going to die anyway?

  • Leah
    2018-12-17 10:29

    I must admit that I'm still digesting this book. It was little hard to get into, as events would take place for certain characters and then again from another perspective without the clearest of indications that this was happening. Once I did get into it however, it really became a fascinating book. Though there have been many, many stories about missionaries trying to convert "savage" peoples to Christianity, from The African Queen to The Poisonwood Bible, At Play in the Fields of the Lord is a compelling read. By showing the other side of things, a man's conversion to the "savage" Niaruna way of life, as well as telling the tale of the evangelicos, this book reveals more about human nature, cultural contrasts, and the misunderstandings and problems that come when you try to force belief systems into being than a simpler narrative possibly could. The way the characters change, becoming more similar to one another as their lives fall apart, is as true a human experience as can be found. As they realize how feckless their efforts are, how precarious their positions, and how their faith has been transformed, found, or lost, takes the reader through the gamut of human emotion. Sometimes you hate these people. Sometimes you pity them. Sometimes you wish you could help them. No matter how you end up feeling about them though, watching what becomes of them definitely leaves you with things to think about.

  • Paddy Woodworth
    2018-12-08 12:39

    There are a lot of classic Mathiessen strengths in this novel: marvellous clarity and evocative power of portrayal of landscapes and animals; searingly honest vision of human frailties and social and religious hypocrisy; unpretentious and insightful meditations on the big moral issues, the co-existence of appalling suffering, awe inspiring beauty and a kind of ever elusive but crucial grace in the scheme of things. But there is some terribly clunky dialogue, none of the characters are close to as convincing as in his masterpiece Shadow Country, and some are very thin. And I was uncomfortable with the climax, for the wrong reasons. As several reviewers who love M have well said, some indefinable magic is missing here; but it's still better than most novels I've read this year.

  • Lark Benobi
    2018-12-17 15:37

    What an exuberant mess of a book! It galloped forward. So much happened. I mean, there is a sheer overwhelming flood of happenings in his book, assaulting the reader almost, at the pace of The Perils of Pauline, a series of "and-then, and then, and-then's"... I loved that something so well written and so thoughtful and so philosophically rich could also be jam-packed with action. Ridiculous and great at the same time.

  • Abby Howell
    2018-12-10 07:29

    Beautifully written book about missionaries in the rain forest of South America. The physical details are evocative and mesmerizing. There was a lot to think about as I read. For myself, I did not find a psychological connection to the characters, but Mattiessen is such a good writer, I was willing to step into their world and live it as they were living it.

  • Forbes Willow
    2018-12-02 12:48

    This book was very interesting, and had a lot of different sub plots going on that I found interesting. The plot was very similar to the plot of the movie Avatar, which was really funny. I didn't really like the ending at all, because the book just ended without a real explanation of what happened to the rest of the characters. It started out well, but was overall disappointing.

  • Caitlin
    2018-12-12 12:23

    Really interesting novel about missionaries trying to convert an indigenous community in Peru back in the 1960s. But about a lot more...sounds weird, but actually pretty good. Really excellent writer. Some missionaries we met said it puts them in a bad depends on the reader of course.

  • Marie Tea
    2018-12-13 10:41

    It is sometimes hard to name my top ten favorite books, but not hard to name this as one of my top ten favorite books. Perhaps top five, I'm not good with numbers. I just know that if I pick it up and open it up, I'll end up reading it again. That's rare for me. Peter, you will be missed.

  • Paul
    2018-11-23 11:36

    Slow start, but once we get into the jungle, it was fascinating.

  • Dave
    2018-11-29 10:34

    Very good, on many levels. I particularly enjoyed the illumination of the Protestant/Catholic differences, and the similarities between the North and South American native people.