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July 12, 2009

St. Paul Pioneer Press, Executive Read, V. Katherine Gray, president, Sage Health Management Solutions

As a well-known business leader in the Twin Cities, the St. Paul Pioneer Press invited Katherine Gray to be a guest author of a column called Executive Read.


Who: V. Katherine Gray, president, Sage Health Management Solutions, Inc., Bloomington

What: "The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey" by Candice Millard

Why: As a founder of a company, I'm aware of what it means to "go where no one has before"; however, the personal fortitude described in The River of Doubt is remarkable. It tells the story of Theodore Roosevelt's journey down a tributary of the Amazon in 1914. The book is a great read!

Candice Millard's book details the Amazon's forbidding ecology, including unique deadly plants, poisonous insects, man-eating fish, and potentially hostile tribes. All were encountered by Roosevelt and Brazilian map specialist Candido Rondon when they ventured into the treacherous, dark rainforest.

Initially, it was difficult to understand why a worldly man like former President Roosevelt would make such a dangerous journey until the author describes the celebrated discoveries of the time, including those of explorers Robert Peary, Richard Byrd and Roald Admundsen. In other words, civilization was experiencing significant geographic discovery, and outdoorsman Roosevelt sought to contribute to this expanding knowledge of nature.

Each fascinating segment, told from the diaries and documents of the time, provides both surprising elements, including the men's dogs on the journey, and heart-wrenching character studies of men under great stress.

By the end of the book, I could echo the sentiment of naturalist George Cherrie:"How [can] any [one] be brought into close personal contact with Colonel Roosevelt without loving the man?"