Book Reviews

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

1
Review — WILD WORLD by Peter Rush (Cameroon)
2
Review — PATCHWORKS by B.A. East (Malawi)
3
Review — IF YOU ARE RETIRING, YOU MIGHT JOIN THE PEACE CORPS! by Sally Jo Nelson Botzler (Mexico)
4
Review — EVOLVING BRAINS, EMERGING GODS by Fuller Torrey (Ethiopia)
5
Review: THE ART OF COMING HOME by Craig Storti (Morocco)
6
Review — BOLIVIA 30 by Frank Darmiento (Bolivia)
7
Review — WHITE MOON IN A POWDER BLUE SKY by Julie Dargis (Morocco)
8
Review — INDIA-40 AND THE CIRCLE OF DEMONS by Peter Adler (India)
9
Review — IN THE BELLY OF THE ELEPHANT by Susan Corbett (Liberia)
10
Review — MUKHO MEMORIES by Don Haffner (Korea)

Review — WILD WORLD by Peter Rush (Cameroon)

  Wild World (novel) by Peter S. Rush (Cameroon 1972–73) Prior Manor August 2017 288 pages $16.95 (paperback) Reviewed by D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76, and Costa Rica 1976–77) • You can’t change an institution unless you are willing to become a part of it and work from the inside. That’s what Steve Logan decided to do. In the spring of 1970 he is a senior at Brown University, very much in love with his girlfriend Roxy, a pre-med student, and planning to go to law school in the fall. Then he hears about Kent State, four student demonstrators killed by the National Guard. Inspired by a campus appearance by a New York City police officer who is fighting corruption on the force, and unwilling to leave Roxy on her own as she has recently lost both her father and sister, Steve decides to join the local Providence police force and . . .

Read More

Review — PATCHWORKS by B.A. East (Malawi)

  Patchworks (mystery) by B.A. East (Malawi 1996-98) Moonshine Cove Press September 2017 259 pages $13.99 paperback, $6.99 Kindle Reviewed by Peter Van Deekle (Iran, 1968-70) • B.A. East brings to his latest and timely novel a refined skill for realistic dialog and a  first-hand experience of the federal bureaucracy. This reviewer received his copy of Patchworks on the morning after the Las Vegas massacre in October 2017 with the prophetic statement on its back cover: “America’s next gun massacre is inevitable …” The 20013 shootings at the Navy Yard facility in Washington, D.C. provide a credible context for this novel’s heightened anxiety over safety and security. Within that anxiety, East gives readers an engaging narrative centered on two of the novel’s central characters, Gabriel Dunne and Manny Teague.  Dunne’s internship in the fictitious Bureau of Government Intelligence and Execution involves him in an investigation of gun violence in America.  Gabriel’s academic . . .

Read More

Review — IF YOU ARE RETIRING, YOU MIGHT JOIN THE PEACE CORPS! by Sally Jo Nelson Botzler (Mexico)

  If You Are Retiring, You Might Join the Peace Corps! by Sally Jo Nelson Botzler (Mexico 2009–11) WestBowPress July 2017 122 pages $16.95 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 1964—66) • WAKE UP RETIREES, life is just beginning . . . Sally and Rick Botzler did it and so can you! After a successful career teaching, raising a family, and involvement with their communities . . . they became Peace Corps Volunteers assigned to Mexico. Twenty-four months as Volunteers, and three months as Trainees, and their lives will never be the same. Peace Corps does something to you no matter where you serve in over 70 countries  — with Vietnam being the newest. Sally takes us thru the application process, and having kept a log (great idea) she tells us what training was like — the excellent and friendly host family they lived with, and Peace Corps Mexico (PC/M) staff and . . .

Read More

Review — EVOLVING BRAINS, EMERGING GODS by Fuller Torrey (Ethiopia)

  Evolving Brains, Emerging Gods: Early Humans and the Origins of Religion E. Fuller Torrey (Staff/MD Ethiopia 1964–66) Columbia University Press September 2017 312 pages $35.00 (hardcover), $33.25 (Kindle) By Patricia Taylor Edmisten (Peru 1962-64) • “The gods were born following a pregnancy lasting approximately two million years. It took that long for hominin brains to evolve structurally and functionally from being primate-like brains to being brains that possessed the cognitive faculties of modern Homo sapiens.” Thus begins E. Fuller Torrey’s masterful book on the evolution of religion. He has reviewed, compiled, and applied the pertinent fields of paleontology, anthropology, archaeology, anatomy, brain science, psycholinguistics, and social science that contribute to his theme. Torrey had been “looking for God,” since he was a child. As an undergraduate, he majored in religious studies; as a graduate student, in anthropology. He went on to become a physician and psychiatrist who has published . . .

Read More

Review: THE ART OF COMING HOME by Craig Storti (Morocco)

  The Art of Coming Home by Craig  Storti (Morocco 1970-72, PC/W 1973-79) Nicholas Brealey, publisher 2001 (revised edition) 229 pages $22.95 (paperback), $12.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Bob Arias (Colombia 1963–64) • Culture Shock in Reverse Culture Shock, a noun . . . “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.” — Google   IF YOU HAVEN’T EXPERIENCED IT, returning home after spending months or years overseas in a different culture, with different standards and perhaps another language, can be a challenge. American Peace Corps Volunteers, Japanese Volunteers or United Nation Volunteers in Latin America bring back their experiences and new found memories that have changed their person. And it isn’t just volunteers who experience these changes, military families, students, missionaries, and business executives do as well. Coming home is a challenge with special benefits that remain with us. . . .

Read More

Review — BOLIVIA 30 by Frank Darmiento (Bolivia)

  Bolivia 30: Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1960s Frank T. Darmiento (Bolivia ), author and editor CreateSpace April 2015 172 pages $24.99 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971–73) • Frank Darmiento, the author of Bolivia 30 provides a unique perspective of life in the Peace Corps in Bolivia by sharing in great detail his own story of the training process in the U.S. as well as when serving in Bolivia with his young wife. His book also includes dozen stories of others who were in his training group, which added to the texture and broadened the diversity of perspectives. Twenty four photos, most of them in color, greatly enhance the stories of places and circumstances we could not imagine. Darmiento provides a detailed description of the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in a very isolated part of South America. I commiserated . . .

Read More

Review — WHITE MOON IN A POWDER BLUE SKY by Julie Dargis (Morocco)

  White Moon in a Powder Blue Sky: A Primer in Healing from both Sides of the Veil in Memoir, Sonnets and Prose by Julie R. Dargis (Morocco 1984–87) Indie House Press July 2016 78 pages $9.50 (paperback) Reviewed by Taylor Barahona (Dominican Republic (2015–17) • With a bold and unique approach, Julie R. Dargis sets out to bring her readers on a spiritual journey through her book White Moon in a Powder Blue Sky: A Primer in Healing from both Sides of the Veil in Memoir, Sonnets and Prose. Dargis successfully captures a feeling that will surely resonate for any reader who dedicates themselves to serving the greater good and finds it difficult to step back and take care of themselves. Dargis writes, in her Author’s Note: I had been ready and willing to undertake anything that would have been asked of me. But what I was being told, in . . .

Read More

Review — INDIA-40 AND THE CIRCLE OF DEMONS by Peter Adler (India)

  India-40 and the Circle of Demons: A Memoir of Death, Sickness, Love, Friendship, Corruption, Political Fanatics, Drugs, Thugs, Psychosis, and Illumination in the Us Peace Corps by Peter S. Adler (Maharashtra, India 1966–68) Xlibris June 2017 406 pages $23.99 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle), $34.99 (hard cover) Reviewed by Richard M. Grimsrud (Bihar, India 1965–67) • THE SAGA OF A CENTRAL INDIAN PEACE CORPS GROUP This well-written, and almost perfectly presented memoir (I noticed only 2 typos in my reading of it, astounding for any book of 383 pages), was generally slow going for me at the beginning, became a page-turner largely because of its excellent irony in its extended middle section, and bogged down some at the end, perhaps, because it was a bit verbose and excessively philosophical in its conclusion. Nevertheless, India-4o . . . is certainly a good read for anyone with an interest in India and its development over the . . .

Read More

Review — IN THE BELLY OF THE ELEPHANT by Susan Corbett (Liberia)

  In the Belly of the Elephant: A Memoir of Africa Susan Corbett (Liberia 1976–79) CreateSpace March 2016 396 pages $14.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle)   Reviewed by Brooks Marmon (Niger 2008–10) • IN THE BELLY OF THE ELEPHANT is Susan Corbett’s memoir of her life as an aid worker with Save the Children in Burkina Faso (then called Upper Volta) in the early 1980s, following her Peace Corps service in Liberia. Amidst descriptions of a hard scrabble life in Dori, a small town near the border with Niger, Corbett weaves in occasional reminiscences of her service in Liberia and the harsh attitudes of many of her family members in the US to her decision to work in west Africa. Much of the work can be quite jarring — a reflection of both Corbett’s experiences in the harsh climate of the Sahel as well as an extremely candid writing style. While the book . . .

Read More

Review — MUKHO MEMORIES by Don Haffner (Korea)

  Mukho Memories: A Peace Corps/Korea Memoir by Don  Haffner (Korea 1972–75) Dog Ear Publishing May 2017 406 pages $20.00 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Clifford Garstang (Korea 1976–77) • MUKHO MEMORIES BY DON HAFFNER (Korea, 1972–75) is the fourth or fifth Peace Corps Korea memoir I’ve read. While the personalities of the authors make each distinct, these volumes (and likely Peace Corps memoirs about other countries of service as well) all tell roughly the same story: idealistic young American comes to an under-developed country, discovers the wonders and peculiarities of the place, and returns home forever changed by the experience. As a Korea RPCV myself (I arrived in Korea a few months after Haffner left), my own memories are quite similar to Haffner’s: the anxiety of being outside the US for the first time, in a non-English speaking country, no less; the triple-whammy shock of new cuisine, new culture, and . . .

Read More

Copyright © 2016. Peace Corps Worldwide.