An in-depth narrative about a journey from Baja, California to Panama, DANCING WITH DEATH features stories and insights garnered after traveling more than 3,000 miles and visiting seven countries via kayak. Written in alternating viewpoints and adhering to a journal format, the authors Jean-Philippe Soulé, who wrote the book with his travel companion, Luke Shullenberger, employ elegant, descriptive prose to describe encounters with crocodiles and bandits, the danger of rogue waves and endless storms.
Soulé’s crisp, fast-paced writing advances the narrative quickly, and he switches seamlessly between his own insights and recollections and those of Shullenberger. Both men write honestly and unflinchingly of their own fears, anxieties, insights and emotions, laying bare their souls as they struggle, at times, to complete the journey or even pinpoint its core mission. The pair highlight cultures not often seen or written about, showcasing the men and women as simple people striving to survive by living off the land and sea. Such insights give the reader a closer picture of the battle between man and nature and the importance of preserving land and cultures to ensure the survival of future generations. Human endurance is a focal point of the novel, as Soulé targets battles between man and nature and man and self that he stresses as essential to the journey’s success.
At times, the narrative is bogged down by excess, including descriptions of equipment and the gathering of food and supplies. Such shortcomings are overcome by soulful reflections on lessons learned from the indigenous people of Latin America, insights on changing climate patterns and man’s depletion of Earth’s natural resources. Nearly every chapter of the book is packed with edge-of-your-seat excitement and thrilling entertainment. Soulé is at his best when relaying action, describing tense moments in shark infested waters, endless battles with blackflies and mosquitoes and curious questions from intrigued locals.
Thrilling adventure, soulful insights and crisp, fast-paced writing combine to make Jean-Philippe Soulé’s DANCING WITH DEATH a great read.
~Jen Lynds for IndieReader