cover image My River Home: A Journey from the Gulf War to the Gulf of Mexico

My River Home: A Journey from the Gulf War to the Gulf of Mexico

Marcus Eriksen, . . Beacon, $24.95 (255pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-7275-2

The dream, shared with a fellow grunt on long night watches during the Gulf War, was to raft more than 2,000 miles, from the headwaters of the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. Fantasizing about the journey got Eriksen through days of scorching sun, toxic oil fires, dysentery and the stench of Iraqi soldiers' rotting bodies. Thirteen years later, the once gung-ho marine reservist had become a committed antiwar activist and set out from central Minnesota on a ramshackle vessel constructed of 232 empty two-liter soda bottles, a Ford Mustang driver's seat and a paddle wheel powered by a 10-speed bicycle. Eriksen's vivid vignettes from his experience in Kuwait conjure the gritty realities of war with a mix of affection for his fellow soldiers and bitterness about a conflict that "no one fought for democracy. No one fought for human rights. And no one fought for the safety of America." That candid anger is tempered by the first-time author's often-humorous accounts of his misadventures on the river, including his discovery that it was impossible to float his precarious raft through the swampy first miles of the Mississippi; he used a canoe for the first leg instead. (Apr.)