Project Description

The Mosquito Coast

Author: Paul Theroux
Genre: Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Publication Date: 1981
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Highlights from The Mosquito Coast:

  • This fictional novel is an international bestseller about a paranoid genius named Allie Fox who moves his wife and kids deep into the Honduran jungle in an effort to escape the rampant materialism and conformity of American culture.
  • The book is narrated by Allie’s pre-teen son who loves his father, but slowly begins to question Allie’s sanity when it becomes clear the man believes himself to be above the laws of nature and rules of human civilization.
  • Although not set in Panamá, Allie’s motivations for leaving the U.S. to find a simpler and happier life are relatable and the challenges he faces, though extreme, make for an interesting read for expats.
  • Allie’s mental deterioration adds to the fascination factor of the book.
  • After you read the book, don’t miss the movie with Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren and River Phoenix!

A member of my book club who knows of my plans to move to Panamá recommended I read The Mosquito Coast. Although set in Honduras, the gist of the story—disillusioned American guy moves his family to Central America—made it a worthy inclusion on my Panama book list.

In the beginning, I found myself relating to the main character, Allie Fox. I, too, am looking to escape the materialism and conformity of the U.S. And, I’m also seeking a purer and simpler life.

Fortunately, that’s about as far as our similarities go.

Allie is an extreme version of the egotistical expat who has no interest in acclimating to the local culture or to the locals who live there. Instead, he tries to control an uncontrollable environment and the people he meets there.

That doesn’t go so well for Allie—or the family who has no other choice, but to be there with him.

I didn’t really bond with the book until I was more than half way through it, mostly because Allie was so unlikable, the mother was incredibly irritating, and it was pretty emotionally detached. But, as Allie begins to be more and more irrational and unstable, the story’s intensity pulled me in.

With the exception of my personal frustrations described above, this is an extremely well written book and a fascinating story about how not to be an expat!

Must Read Quotient 20%
Difficulty 20%
Educational Value 10%
Snooze Factor 15%
Character Development 80%
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