Archive - January 9, 2014

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Review of Aaron Barlow’s (Togo 1988-90) Hard As Kerosene

Review of Aaron Barlow’s (Togo 1988-90) Hard As Kerosene

Hard as Kerosene (novel) by Aaron Barlow (Togo 1988–90) Peace Corps Writers Book $9.95 (paperback), $1.99 (Kindle) 257 pages 2013 Reviewed by Brendan Held (Madagascar 2008–09, Mali 2009–10) If there is such a thing a typical Peace Corps narrative, Hard As Kerosene isn’t it. Aaron Barlow (Togo 1988-90) shows us four years of West Africa through the eyes of Paul, a young American struggling to define what he wants out of life. The story follows Paul through loneliness, loss, adventure and peril as he rambles from place to place avoiding confrontation with his past. Peace Corps weaves in and out of the plot, but it isn’t quite the central theme of the book. Gone are the long descriptions of service projects and community dynamics. Instead, Barlow exposes some neglected facets of the Peace Corps gestalt as Paul morphs from idealistic tourist, to roving itinerant, to frustrated Volunteer, to cynical ex-pat. . . .

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