“Fishers of Men” is the beautiful new memoir by Reality Sandwich writer Adam Elenbaas. It is a powerful coming-of-age story that interweaves twin narratives: A quest for redemption in the Amazon jungle and a son’s profound struggle to heal his difficult relationship with his Christian preacher father. Along the way, he conquers an opiate addiction, meets Jesus in a vision and wrestles with what it means to be a man.
I started turning the pages on Sunday afternoon and couldn’t stop until I finished on Monday. The words are so well-crafted that reading feels smooth and effortless. I highly recommend it. So does Publisher’s Weekly, which gave the book a starred review, calling it “heartbreakingly poignant” and a journey that “should not be missed.” I won’t give away the book’s ending except to say that it is everything you could ever long for and more.
I am honored to have watched Adam’s transformation in real life, though I never knew the inner story until I read this book. We met on the internet several years ago; our long-distance friendship sprang out of shared acquaintance with Daniel Pinchbeck and a mutual interest in the visionary plant medicine he was writing about. Adam struck me as a brilliant, intuitive and kindhearted person, though he could also be self-righteous and arrogant at times. As he began to work increasingly with ayahuasca, I saw his personality change. When we met in person last year in New York City, Adam was humble, exuding an air of peace and wisdom beyond his years. “Fishers of Men” illuminated the private depths of his transformation from purge to epiphany. I found it enlightening and lovely to read: at once honest, poetic and compelling.
Anyone who’s ever tried to convey a mystical experience with a plant medicine knows it’s not easy to find the right words. Adam does. He begins:
“It was raining hard outside the mesa. Thunder boomed over the tops of the trees. Branches snapped and fell as the larger sentinels of the jungle ran for cover, stirring up birds and the sounds of flapping wings in the undergrowth.
The rodent-sized lodge dog, Cucaracha, growled and barked. The vibration of the crickets grew louder and then vanished. Several splashes sounded off one after another, and reptiles disappeared into the brown river. The sound of rain ricocheted off the water.
The icaro had changed. The pace of Ethan’s melody had quickened. As if Ethan’s icaro was stirring the soup of a large boiling cauldron, gradually building momentum, the medicine song gathered everybody in the circle into the same vision. Each time the melody dipped into the haunting minor notes, I could feel myself getting sicker…”