Book Reviews

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

1
Review: VENEZUELA SOJOURN by Jon C. Halter (Venezuela)
2
Review: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO AMHARIC by Andrew Tadros (Ethiopia) & Abraham Teklu
3
Review: A WILD HARE by Siffy Torkildson (Madagascar)
4
Review: BREVITE´ by Stephen Mustoe (Kenya)
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Review: MEETING THE MANTIS by John Ashford (Botswana)
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Review: A REASON TO KILL by Carole Sojka (Somalia)
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Review: A TIME THAT WAS . . . by Philip Salisbury (Liberia)
8
Review — LIPS OPEN AND DIVINE by Matthew Hamilton (Armenia, Philippines)
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Review — CONSULTING IN INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, A PRIMER by John Holley (Colombia)
10
Review: DEATH IN VERACRUZ translated by Chandler Thompson (Colombia)

Review: VENEZUELA SOJOURN by Jon C. Halter (Venezuela)

  Venezuela Sojourn: The Peace Corps Diary of Jon C. Halter Jon C. Halter (Venezuela 1966–68) CreateSpace September 2015 264 pages $12.00 (paperback) Reviewed by Catherine Bell (Brazil 1966–68) • Venezuela Sojourn is a completely unromanticized view of a Peace Corps assignment in Venezuela in the 1960s. All the elements of a typical Peace Corps experience of that era are here — difficulties with the language, attraction to other Volunteers, friction with in-country contacts, parties where you try to figure out who everyone is, the frustration of trying to find something to do, meetings with little result, preoccupations with food and digestion and with deselection and other bureaucratic hurdles against the background of Vietnam, sporadic attempts to find the courage to do the more difficult things that ought to be done. Committed to a test Peace Corps Scout program, Halter is a well-meaning Volunteer — though no idealist. He recounts some success at teaching phys. . . .

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Review: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO AMHARIC by Andrew Tadros (Ethiopia) & Abraham Teklu

  The Essential Guide to Amharic: The National Language of Ethiopia Andrew Taros (Ethiopia 2011–13) & Abraham Teklu Peace Corps Writers September 2015 163 pages $20.00 (paperback) Reviewed by Andy Martin (Ethiopia 1965–68) • The Essential Guide to Amharic by Tadross and Teklu, is exactly what it says it is, a brief guide to the language. At 163 pages, it is not a textbook. If you are going to Ethiopia for business or pleasure, the Guide could be helpful. If you want to learn Amharic in order to communicate with Amharic speakers for any length of time or depth, in Ethiopia or elsewhere, this is not a book I can recommend. In the biography of one of the authors, Andrew Tadross, he explains how, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia, he made lists of vocabulary words for himself to memorize and how these lists eventually evolved into this book. Unfortunately . . .

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Review: A WILD HARE by Siffy Torkildson (Madagascar)

  A Wild Hare: Finding the Life I Imagined Siffy Torkildson (Madagascar 2001–02) Sacred World Explorations July 2015 294 pages $17.99 (paperback), $7.99 (Kindle) Review by Deidre Swesnik (Mali 1996-98) • A QUOTE FROM BUDDHA in Siffy Torkildson’s book, A Wild Hare, is, “As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.” For Torkildson’s journey, I think she might also add, “be who you are.” Being present and being herself guides her on a journey to “finding the life I imagined.” She learned the hard way for too many years of not following her heart. But she is now determined to take what she has learned and to move forward with her newly found true love. She will not be deterred. Torkildson lets us into her innermost thoughts in this book that is part memoir, part travel guide. The book starts . . .

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Review: BREVITE´ by Stephen Mustoe (Kenya)

  Brevité: A Collection of Short Fiction Stephen Mustoe (Kenya 1983–84) Peace Corps Writers May 2016 132 pages $7.95 (paperback) Reviewed by Jane Albritton (India 1967–69) • MEMORY IS THE CORNERSTONE of Stephen Mustoe’s first collection of short fiction: Brevité. Sometimes the memories seem like they rightly belong to the author, sometimes not. But even when the source remains unclear, the quality of remembrance remains present. As with any collection of short fiction, a reader is likely to come away from the experience with favorites. I have. Actually, I have two favorite sets of stories that stand out from the others: a pair featuring the irrepressible Uncle Woody, and a quartet of stories that draw on Mustoe’s experiences in Africa, both as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya and on later return visits. In “Dogfish Blues” and “Blind Faith,” Mustoe introduces Woody, a veteran Navy flier who knew how to get . . .

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Review: MEETING THE MANTIS by John Ashford (Botswana)

  Meeting the Mantis: Searching for a Man in the Desert and Finding the Kalahari Bushmen by John Ashford (Botswana 1990–92) Peace Corps Writers August 2015 216 pages $13.00 (paperback), $4.00 (Kindle)   Reviewed by Julie R. Dargis (Morocco 1984-87) • “Follow the lightening,” the first people of the Kalahari said. At the end of the proverbial rainbow in Western culture, lies water, herds of wild animals, and life in the desert. For years, John Ashford fantasized about what it would be like to live the life of a Bushman. After years of contemplation, the photograph of Freddy Morris that John Ashford had once glimpsed in his hometown library, came to life. By the time the author met him, Freddy Morris had clocked nearly 90 years straddling two cultures. Before he set out on his journey, Ashford could lay claim to a half-life of Freddy’s experiences, the most relevant months boiled . . .

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Review: A REASON TO KILL by Carole Sojka (Somalia)

  So Many Reasons to Die: An Andi Battaglia – Greg Lamont Mystery by Carole Sojka (Somalia 1962–64) Create Space 2015 322 pages $14.00 (paperback), $3.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Matthew Hamilton (Armenia 2006-08 and Philippines 2008-10) • This evocative sequel to A Reason to Kill, by Carole Sojka (Somalia 1962-64), comes with all the sleaze, violence, and eroticism one expects to find on the sketchy side of Miami’s nightlife. One reader said, “There is no doubt in my mind this is a very easy rating of 5 stars.” I would have to agree. The story centers on the murder victim, Miranda Duncan, whom we never meet, but learn about through her friends, lovers, and enemies. She is indeed a fascinating character, a true femme fatale that led a life of intrigue, danger, and seduction. Sojka is an excellent researcher. Her descriptions of the murder scene and the way police conduct investigations are . . .

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Review: A TIME THAT WAS . . . by Philip Salisbury (Liberia)

  A Time That Was . . .: A Peace Corps Volunteer’s Experience of Pre-revolutionary Liberia, West Africa, 1962–1964 Philip S. Salisbury (Liberia 1962–64) Xlibris 2014 244 pages $19.99 (paperback), $29.99 (hard cover) Reviewed by Lee Reno (Liberia 1963–65) • A Time That Was . . . is an interesting and engaging read, particularly for PCVs who were in Liberia before the Liberian civil wars, and perhaps their children. A PCV in the first group of PCVs to Liberia in 1962, Salisbury writes in his introduction, In the pages that follow, I present a rewrite of my journal entries. Despite gaps in coverage, I made an effort to recall days that were written about. My purpose is to communicate the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of a twenty-two year-old who was encountering his first experience in an unknown culture as well as provide a sense of the services I rendered to the Peace . . .

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Review — LIPS OPEN AND DIVINE by Matthew Hamilton (Armenia, Philippines)

  Lips Open and Divine (poetry) by Matthew A. Hamilton  (Armenia 2006–08, Philippines 2008–10) Winter Goose Publishing 2016 107 pages $11.99 (paperback), $4.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Ann Neelon (Senegal 1978-79) • As the Roman dramatist Terence famously wrote, “I am a man. Therefore nothing human is foreign to me.”  More than most writers, especially young ones, Matthew A. Hamilton succeeds in giving us an authentic sense of this human amplitude. The range of Lips Open and Divine, his second book of poems, is astonishing. Whether it is in “Thich Quang Duc” witnessing the flames crawling up a self-immolating Buddhist monk’s arms like “a tamed cat” or in “Chickamauga” “accepting/the dry-bone shouts/of a lost cause,” Hamilton is on the scene. His originality lies in his ability to go for the jugular in terms of shock value while remaining, essentially, within the realm of prayer. Hamilton is a veteran as well as . . .

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Review — CONSULTING IN INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, A PRIMER by John Holley (Colombia)

  Consulting in International Development, A Primer John Holley (Colombia 1968-70) Infinity Publishing 2014 452 pages $26.95 (paperback), $8.95 (Kindle) reviewed by Russ Misheloff (Ethiopia 1962–64) • DRAWING ON 40 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE, Mr. Holley has developed a comprehensive description of the life and functions of international development consultants. The book is organized into three sections covering: the process of entry into the profession, and why one might want to consider it; the “basics,” to use the author’s term;  a discussion of what consultants in the development arena do, and what abilities, attitudes and behaviors the good ones exhibit; and an extensive examination of some tools and concepts. In sum, it presents a “primer,” as the title indicates, but a thorough one, providing a wealth of information and insight into the functions, the life style, the rewards, the drawbacks, and the abilities and disposition needed for success in development consulting . . .

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Review: DEATH IN VERACRUZ translated by Chandler Thompson (Colombia)

  Death in Veracruz (thriller) Hector Aguilar Camin (author), translated by Chandler Thompson (Colombia 1962–64) Schaffner Press 2015 304 pages $16.95 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Suzanne Adam (Colombia 1964–66) • Photos of eight semi-nude cadavers still fresh and bleeding lie displayed on the table before Negro. His onetime schoolmate and friend, Francisco Rojano, asks Negro, an investigative journalist, to help him find the assassin, whom he suspects is Lacho, the powerful leader of a northern oil workers union. Rojano claims that Lacho is after the oil-rich land owned by the assassinated farmers, but Negro is reluctant to get involved with Rojano, an ambitious politician. He learns that Rojano owns an extensive tract of land bordering Lacho’s farm. He guesses that there’s more to the story than Rojano is revealing. To complicate matters, Negro holds a torch for his friend’s wife, Anabela. The story is set in Mexico during the 1970s. . . .

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