Book Reviews

A look at books published by fellow RPCVs that hopefully you will want to read.

1
Review — FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE by Paul Theroux (Malawi)
2
Review — OUR WOMAN IN HAVANA by Vicki Huddleston (Peru)
3
Review — TRAVELS IN SOUTH AMERICA by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras)
4
Review — RAW DAWGIN’ by David Mather (Chile)
5
Review — MAGIC HOURS by Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan)
6
Review — AMERICRUISE by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras)
7
Review – LONGING TO BE FREE by Judith Guskin (Thailand)
8
Review — SHADE OF THE PARAISO by Mark Salvatore (Paraguay)
9
Review — STORIES MAKE THE WORLD by Stephen Most (Peru)
10
Review — DREAM OF ANOTHER AMERICA by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador)

Review — FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE by Paul Theroux (Malawi)

  Figures in a Landscape: People and Places Essays: 2001-2016 By Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) Eamon Dolan/Houghton Miffin Harcourt 416 pages May 2018 $28.00 (hardcover),  $15.64(paperback), $15.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971–73) • The “Godfather of contemporary travel writing” has probably chronicled more places in the world than almost any other author. This is his third volume of essays, following Sunrise with Seamonsters (1984) and Fresh Air Fiend (2001), for a total of 134 essays written over 53 years. This new collection of essays is a veritable cornucopia of sights, characters, and experiences covering the globe. The collection includes varied topics and showcases his sheer versatility as a writer. The title of the book is based on a 1945 painting by the Irish-born artist known for his grotesque, emotionally charged, raw imagery that, according to Theroux, sums up all travel writing and many essays. In the introduction of . . .

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Review — OUR WOMAN IN HAVANA by Vicki Huddleston (Peru)

  Our Woman in Havana A Diplomat’s Chronicle of America’s Long Struggle With Castro’s Cuba BY Ambassador Vicki Huddleston (Peru 1964–66) The Overlook Press 304pages $29.95 Reviewed by Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru, 1962–64) • The title of Ambassador Vicki Huddleston’s memoir, Our Woman in Havana, is a riff on Graham Greene’s novel, Our Man in Havana, published in 1958. In the novel, Graham sardonically takes on British intelligence, especially M16 and its use of Cuban informants. Ambassador Huddleston, by contrast, has written a forthright memoir covering the years 1999-2002 when she worked as Chief of the US Interests Section in Havana.  As backstory to those years, she provides an interesting narrative of the historical events leading to early US attempts to dominate Cuba and shape its future.  In a brief epilogue, she brings us up to the year 2017 when hopes for a continuing Cuban Spring were jeopardized with Donald . . .

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Review — TRAVELS IN SOUTH AMERICA by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras)

Travels in South America by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975–77) CreateSpace 418 pages December 2017 – second edition $22.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 1964-66) • “Che! Loco!” This is not the first book I have reviewed written by “traveler” Lawrence Lihosit. Lihosit and his Mejicana wife Margarita, and her sister Licha, took me to Mexico City and the wedding of friends… Jesus Was Arrested in Mexico City and Missed the Wedding.  Who can turn away from Jesus being arrested and not making it to the wedding? I was hooked. Travels in South America is not a quick tour of South America…not Lorenzo’s style. He, Margarita and Licha feel they are home among new friends in exciting environments. Go with them as they explore Quito, meet the Incas, and share a bus ride with a goat and some chickens. This is the way to travel. Pack a copy of the book, add . . .

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Review — RAW DAWGIN’ by David Mather (Chile)

  Another* page-turner by David Mather! • Raw Dawgin’ by David J. Mather (Chile 1968–70) Peace Corps Writers March 2018 380 pages $14.95 (paperback)   Raw Dawgin by David Mather is a fascinating tale about the interactions — sometimes volatile and other times heartwarming — between commercial fishermen and recreational boaters and sports fishermen seeking to enjoy the pleasures of modern day Florida. Add drug cartel mafiosos and retired law enforcement undercover agents to the mix, and you have an exciting and thoroughly entertaining story. Mather has skillfully woven in many players — long time blue collar residents and fun-seeking recent arrivals — who one can find in present-day Florida. The reader can almost smell the salt air and sense the many “critters” found in the “piney woods” and cypress swamps of Florida’s Gulf Coast. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun read! • Reviewer Carl M. . . .

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Review — MAGIC HOURS by Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan)

  Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation by Tom Bissell (Uzbekistan 1996) Vintage — Reissue edition 352 pages March 2018 $16.95 (paperback), $11.99 (Kindle)   Reviewed by Dan Campbell (El Salvador, 1974-77) • TOM BISSELL IS AN AWARD WINNING writer from Escanaba, Michigan. He studied English at Michigan State University and in 1996, Bissell joined the Peace Corps and served for seven months with the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan. In an interview in BookBrowse, Tom describes how illness and personal crisis forced him home early and states that his experience in Uzbekistan “was extremely haunting for me personally and I felt I had really failed the people I joined the Peace Corps to help.” Magic Hours is a thoughtful collection of eighteen essays. In the introduction, he states that “to create anything, whether a short story or a magazine profile or a film or a sitcom, is to believe, . . .

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Review — AMERICRUISE by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras)

  Americruise (Travel) Second edition Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975–77) Self published September 2017 108 pages $13.95 (paperback) Reviewed by David H. Greegor (Mexico 2007-11) • Americruise by Lawrence F. Lihosit is a short book with a mega font perfect for geezers like me, although this 2017 second edition (first edition published in 1993) wasn’t written just for the geriatrics amongst us; the author wrote the original when he was 33. For roughly the first quarter of the book, I can’t say as I liked it at all. I thought the author was wacko with a complete disregard for syntax and the rules of the English language. His style defies description. This completely threw me off at the outset, quite likely because I’d never read anything by Mr. Lihosit before. His crazy syntax reminds of someone writing English but throwing in some Spanish rules of grammar. This makes sense because the heroine in . . .

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Review – LONGING TO BE FREE by Judith Guskin (Thailand)

  Longing to Be Free: The Bear, the Eagle, and the Crown by Judith Guskin (Thailand 1961-64) Wonder Spirit Press 436 pages $19.36 (paperback), $11.99 (kindle) March 2018 Reviewed by Darcy Meijer (Gabon 1982-84) • Longing to Be Free is a fine piece of historical fiction, and it could well be used in middle and high school history classes. The novel deals with relations between settlers and Native Americans in New England between 1630 and 1677, and the politics in England which drove them. It is a complicated and sad story, and Guskin builds tension skillfully till the final bloody war. The novel focuses on Comfort Bradford, fictional daughter of Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford, who fled England to the Netherlands to escape religious persecution, then on to establish the Colony in Massachusetts. Comfort grows up close friends with the local Wampanoags, led by Chief Massasoit, and she learns the . . .

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Review — SHADE OF THE PARAISO by Mark Salvatore (Paraguay)

  Shade of the Paraiso: Two Years in Paraguay, South America – A Memoir by Mark Salvatore (Paraguay 1989–91) Melbourne: Vine Leaves Press April 2018 292 pages $14.99 (paperback) Reviewed by Ben East (Malawi 1996–98) • MARK SALVATORE  writes simple, declarative sentences. His Peace Corps memoir, Shade of the Paraiso, is stripped to fact and detail, observation and truth. Even its replication of time — passing slowly at first, building inexorably over months, then racing quickly to its conclusion — makes the narrative foremost a work of literary control. It’s an art, how much the writer reveals of his existence in rural Paraguay — all the while revealing little of his own true emotions. The closest we get to knowing Salvatore is to appreciate his obvious fortitude in the face of familiar Peace Corps challenges: the petty counterpart; the bullying ‘big-man’; the general estrangement from community; the recurring uncertainty. Even . . .

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Review — STORIES MAKE THE WORLD by Stephen Most (Peru)

  Stories Make the World: Reflections on Storytelling and the Art of the Documentary By Stephen Most (Peru 1965-67) Berghahn Books 2017 279 Pages $27.95 (paperback), $150.00 (hard cover), $15.37 (Kindle) Reviewed by Alana DeJoseph (Mali 1992-94) • FIRST AND FOREMOST,  let me state that this book is dense. It is packed full of wisdom and insights and history. It is not a fast read, nor is it an easy read, but it is well worth the time and enormously enriching and enlightening to anyone who delves into it. I should also say that I have had the opportunity to work with the author Stephen Most on two documentaries and feel much the wiser for it. Reading this book as we are developing A Towering Task: The Story of the Peace Corps  was a fortuitous turn of events. Most’s clarity of vision and deep understanding of the complexities of documentary filmmaking . . .

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Review — DREAM OF ANOTHER AMERICA by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador)

    Dream of Another America by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02) Gival Press February 2018 373 pages $20.00 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Clifford Garstang (South Korea 1976-77) • WITH THE EXCEPTION, perhaps, of Peace Corps Volunteers, most Americans have little understanding of the hardships faced by the poor in developing and underdeveloped countries. Without that understanding, it is easy to demonize those who choose to come to the United States—often illegally—in search of a better future. Certainly President Trump has taken that route, even raising the possibility of deploying troops along the border with Mexico to stop migrants, despite the absence of evidence that there is a growing immigrant threat. Clearly a gap exists between reality and the fear-mongering of some of our political leaders. Dream of Another America by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02) may help fill that gap. In this gripping novel, McMahon introduces us to . . .

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