Book Reviews

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

1
Review — WHILE I WAS OUT by Jerry Redfield (Ecuador)
2
Review — THE DELCO YEARS by Bill Owens (Jamaica)
3
Review — GOD HOLDS YOU by Sarah S. Scherschligt (Malawi)
4
Review — THOSE WHO ARE GONE by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras)
5
Review — THE LAST OF HIS MIND by John Thorndike (El Salvador)
6
Review — THE BAD ANGEL BROTHERS by Paul Theroux (Malawi)
7
Review — A FIVE FINGER FEAST by Tim Suchsland (Kazakhstan)
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Review — A FIVE FINGER FEAST by Tim Suchsland (Kazakhstan)
9
Review — THE GECKO IN THE BATHTUB by Janina Fuller (Philippines)
10
Review — THE COLOR OF THE ELEPHANT by Christine Herbert (Zambia)
11
Review — MY SADDEST PLEASURES by Mark Walker (Guatemala)
12
Review — ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU by Carl Stephani (Colombia)
13
Review — THE REAL PRESENCE: A NOVEL by Ron Singer (Nigeria)
14
Review — PROJECT NAMAHANA by John Teschner (KENYA)
15
Review — ANGELS OF BASTOGNE by Glenn H. Ivers (Liberia)

Review — WHILE I WAS OUT by Jerry Redfield (Ecuador)

  While I Was Out: Two Years That Changed America — A Peace Corps Memoir by Jerry Redfield (Ecuador 1963-65) Peace Corps Writers Imprint 292 pages July 2022 $22.00 (paperback) Reviewed by Cynthia Nelson Mosca (Ethiopia 1967-69) • Shortly before “Hell no, we won’t go!” there was the Peace Corps. While I Was Out by Jerry Redfield, takes place during the years 1963 to 1965. Early years for the Peace Corps, turbulent years for our country. This book is a real story taken from the author’s journals and letters home. Our hero, Jerry, vacillates between confusion, frustration, and impatience. Will he be able to put aside his attitude toward time? Will he fall in love? Will he develop long term friendships? And ultimately will he fall in love with the people of Ecuador? In the ’60s we were nothing if not assured. Half of the youth of our country was absolutely certain . . .

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Review — THE DELCO YEARS by Bill Owens (Jamaica)

  The Delco Years: A Dystopian Novel Bill  Owens (Jamaica 1964–66), Francesca Cosanti (Illustrator) Delco Years Publishing April 2022 $32.85 (paperback), $42.58 (hardcover) Reviewed by  D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974-76) & Costa Rica 1976-77) • This is an interactive graphic novel by Bill Owens. The author claims to be channeling Ned Buntline, the narrator of the story. The many great illustrations are the work of Francesca Cosanti. According to Buntline: “’The Delco Years’ was written in 1999 and put away for 21 years. Then in the Fall of 2020, for some unknown reason (COVID-19), I started re-writing and added illustrations.” Due to the accidental release of a weaponized strain of anthrax, the human population of the world has been nearly wiped out. The only people who survived were drinkers of unpasteurized craft beer. The two major themes of the novel are, the series of events leading to the apocalypse, and the . . .

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Review — GOD HOLDS YOU by Sarah S. Scherschligt (Malawi)

  God Holds You by Sarah S. Scherschligt (Malawi 1996-98) Independently published October 2022 357 pages $17.99 (Paperback) Reviewed by Ben East (Malawi 1996-98) • Sarah S. Scherschligt is the Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Originally from Minnesota, she lives near Washington, D.C. with her husband and two daughters. She studied at Valparaiso University, Yale Divinity School, and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Prior to becoming a pastor, she served in the U.S. Peace Corps (Malawi 1996-98) and worked for Augsburg College’s Center for Global Education & had experience in both Minnesota and Namibia. She is an environmental activist and amateur potter. Her writing has appeared in The Christian Century, The Presbyterian Outlook, BoldCafe, and The Washington Post. God Holds You offers a chronicle of hope. As we entered the pandemic wilderness in March 2020, progressive Lutheran pastor Sarah Scherschligt began publishing daily reflections about adapting to the . . .

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Review — THOSE WHO ARE GONE by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras)

  Those Who are Gone by Lawrence F. Lihosit (Honduras 1975-77) Independently published September 2022 118 pages $13.00 (Paperback) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker  (Guatemala 1971-73)   • Over the years, I’ve read and reviewed several of the eighteen books of fellow author and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer “Lorenzo” Lihosit. He was a volunteer in Honduras and married a lady from Mexico, and I was a volunteer in Guatemala and married a señorita from there.  I used his Peace Corps Experience: Write & Publish Your Memoir to write my own, Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond, proofed his Oral History from Madera, California, and agreed with the Madera Tribune, “The best of its kind in print. Like Volume 1, the author offers real-life stories by citizens of Madera, California. It seems like they speak directly to us, seated at our kitchen table, waving their arms while . . .

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Review — THE LAST OF HIS MIND by John Thorndike (El Salvador)

  The Last of His Mind: A Year In The Shadow Of Alzheimer’s by John Thorndike (El Salvador 1966-68) Swallow Press 264 pages $18.82 (paperback), $27.94 (hardcover), $7.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by: D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • This is a moving story of a son’s devotion to his dying father who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. His determination to help his father fulfill his desire to die at home is admirable. Of interest as well is the author’s recounting of the details of how he arranged for others, including his two brothers, to spell him, giving him needed breaks from his around the clock care for his father. Beyond being a memoir of spending his father’s last year caring for him, the book also covers much of the elder Thorndike’s professional life, marriage, and personal life. It also discusses the author’s raising of his son as a single parent. One . . .

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Review — THE BAD ANGEL BROTHERS by Paul Theroux (Malawi)

  The Bad Angel Brothers by Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65)) ‎Mariner Books Publisher ‎352 pages September 2022 $14.99 (Kindle); $26.09 (Hardcover), $22.35 or 1 credit (Audiobook) Reviewed by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971-73) • Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) is probably the most prolific of the Returned Peace Corps writers, with 33 works in fiction and 53 books overall. As with his latest book, I wasn’t enthusiastic about reading it, as I prefer his nonfiction travel stories. But just as was the case reading the life of the aging surfer in Hawaii in Under the Wave of Waimae (2021), he does a stellar job developing the characters in this psychological thriller. This most recent book is a classic tale of a dysfunctional family. A younger brother’s rivalry with his older brother, Frank, a domineering brother and a well-known lawyer in their small community in Massachusetts. Frank also has a propensity to come up with . . .

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Review — A FIVE FINGER FEAST by Tim Suchsland (Kazakhstan)

  A Five Finger Feast: Two Years in Kazakhstan, Lessons from the Peace Corps by Tim  Suchsland (Kazakhstan 2007–09), author and illustrator Peace Corps Writers, May 2022 395 pages $19.99 (paperback) Reviewed by Philip Montgomery (Kazakhstan 2007–09) • Travel is one of the greatest educators in life. Even more educational — worldview shaping even — is living in a country that is not your own, understanding what it means to be the outsider, the guest, the stranger. In this sense, all travel is not equal. Some journeys break up the monotony of everyday life, while others leave immense, immeasurable impacts on the sojourner, the kinds of experience that shape us more completely. Tim Suchsland’s A Five Finger Feast is an account of one such journey. In this memoir, Suchsland takes the reader along with him through his 2-year adventure of travel, growth, and discovery. Rather than presenting a superficial touristy version . . .

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Review — A FIVE FINGER FEAST by Tim Suchsland (Kazakhstan)

  A Five Finger Feast: Two Years in Kazakhstan, Lessons from the Peace Corps by Tim  Suchsland (Kazakhstan 2007–09), author and illustrator Peace Corps Writers, May 2022 395 pages $19.99 (paperback) Reviewed by John Chromey (India 1963–65); (PC CD/Eastern Caribbean (1977–79); (Assoc Dir-PC/Washington 1979–1981) • Tim Suchsland, a teacher and artist, takes the reader on a very interesting journey into a vast corner of the world that  none of us has ever seen, of which we know virtually nothing, which borders on Russia’s infamous Siberia and yet is populated with very interesting people — Kazaks from many tribes, Armenians, Volga Germans and Russians — each with a story of how their people came to be in the village of Valenka, twenty miles from the Russian border and 840 miles (22 hours by road) from the Kazakh capitol, Almaty. Any of us who served in the Peace Corps in the 1960s, ’70s . . .

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Review — THE GECKO IN THE BATHTUB by Janina Fuller (Philippines)

  The Gecko in the Bathtub: Encounters with Marvelous Creatures by Janina Marie Fuller (Philippines 1978-80) with illustrations by Maggie Demorest Peace Corps Writers June 2022 178 pages $17.50 (paperback) Reviewed by Andy Amster (Philippines 1978-80) • The Gecko in the Bathtub, Janina Fuller’s collection of stories about her interactions with a wide variety of animals, in settings both mundane and exotic, is subtitled Encounters with Marvelous Creatures. And I must say that while reading these stories, I came to realize that I was having an encounter with a marvelous writer, one whose love of nature and respect for its ecosystems and their inhabitants artfully enlists the reader into “allyship” in that love and respect. From the moment I glanced at the “Table of Contents” before settling down to read this wonderful book, I knew I was putting myself in the hands of an assured and engaging writer. “So Much Alaska,” “Visit from . . .

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Review — THE COLOR OF THE ELEPHANT by Christine Herbert (Zambia)

  The Color of the Elephant: Memoir of a Muzungu Christine  Herbert (Zambia 2004–06) GenZ Publishing January 2022 $15.99 (paperback), $5.99 (Kindle) Reviewed by Rebecca M. Zornow (eSwatini 2011–13) • I visited the landlocked country of Zambia from the landlocked country of eSwatini, practically neighbors. As a Peace Corps Volunteer on leave, I wished for more than the cursory understanding of Zambian culture, even more than the quick mist of the thunderous Victoria Falls. But as a Volunteer from another country with much to see, I wouldn’t get that chance until reading Christine Herbert’s memoir, The Color of the Elephant. Christine arrives in Zambia in 2004 and quickly learns to eat nshima (cornmeal porridge) and wear citenge (sarong) but wonders throughout training if she’ll be enough to live up to the experience of two years making a difference in the remote countryside. On a trainee outing with an established Volunteer, Christine wonders, . . .

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Review — MY SADDEST PLEASURES by Mark Walker (Guatemala)

  My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road: Part of the Yin and Yang of Travel Series by Mark D. Walker (Guatemala 1971–73) Cyberwit.net May 2022 63 pages $15.00 (paperback) Review by: D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76; Costa Rica 1976–77) • This book is part of the author’s “Yin and Yang of Travel” series of ten essays, which was inspired by Paul Theroux’s (Malawi 1963–65) The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road  Mr. Walker has spent over 50 years traveling in many countries around the world, first as a Peace Corps volunteer, and later as a professional fund raiser for various nonprofit organizations or NGOs. The book is an easy read. Walker writes in a conversational style, and it is only 63 pages. It is primarily a journal of his travels alone, with his family, and leading trips for donors to NGOs he worked for. His travel has . . .

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Review — ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU by Carl Stephani (Colombia)

  Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You …: Peace Corps Remembered – Bogota 1962–64 by Carl Stephani (Colombia 1962–64) Independently published June 2022 237 pages $6.95 (paperback) Reviewed by John Chromy (India 1963–65) •   Our 1960s Peace Corps colleague Carl Stephani has assembled a very interesting and readable screed that for first decade PCVs will bring back many memories, and for post-1970 PCVs. Ask Not . . . provides an interesting view of Peace Corps in the “Olden Days” The days when Peace Corps training included 2-3 months at a US University, a month of outward bound hiking/mountain climbing/river swimming and a week or two in the cross-cultural setting of a poverty ridden neighborhood, be it urban slum or rural Appalachia, migrant stream camp or Native American reservation. The arrival in country and three days later delivered to the village or neighborhood of your assignment. The days . . .

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Review — THE REAL PRESENCE: A NOVEL by Ron Singer (Nigeria)

  The Real Presence: A Novel Ron  Singer (Nigeria 1964–67) Adelaide Books, May 2021 236 pages $19.60 (paperback) Reviewed by Lucinda Wingard (Nigeria 1966-68) • Many of us RPCVs will agree that our lives were significantly altered by living and working in a foreign country. For author Ron Singer (Nigeria 1964-67) the years since Peace Corps have included serious attempts to understand and write about the evolution of his country-of-service. The Real Presence opens with two Igbo characters each taking a chapter to describe for an indeterminate audience their lives before and up to independence in 1960. Addressing the reader in distinctly regional cadence, Lydia Ogochukwu and her much younger brother Jerry (Jeremiah) tell of village life, tribal customs, and their education from the 1930s to the 1950s. They attempt to correct the reader’s misconceptions about their birthplace and the region’s history. The third character is Peace Corps Volunteer Bob Shepard . . .

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Review — PROJECT NAMAHANA by John Teschner (KENYA)

  Project Namahana by John Teschner (Kenya 2003-05) Forge Books 304 pages June 2022 $14,99 (Kindle); $27.99 (Hardback); $17.86 (audiobook) Review by  D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974-76) and (Costa Rica 1976-77) • Set on the island of Kaua’i, the fourth largest of the Hawaiian archipelago, this novel starts with the death of three local boys, apparently by drowning. The book is mostly narrated by the two main characters, Micah Bernt, a former military special forces soldier, living on Kaua’i, and Michael Lindstrom, an executive and former lead scientist for the Benevoment Seed Company, living in the Twin Cities. The book includes a lot of conversation in Hawaiian accents. This makes the narrative especially entertaining to read. Author John Teschner spent seven years living on the island of Kaua’i, so his use of Hawaiian words and phrases is authentic. Further, his descriptions of Hawaiian cultural situations adds a great deal to . . .

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Review — ANGELS OF BASTOGNE by Glenn H. Ivers (Liberia)

  Angels of Bastogne: A Remembrance of World War II by Glenn H. Ivers (Liberia 1974-1976) Peace Corps Writers February 2022 web site: angelsofbastogne.com 315 pages $19.95 (paperback), $9.95 (Kindle) Reviewed by Philip Fretz (Sierra Leone 1967–69) • Angels of Bastogne is an exceptionally comprehensive telling of the conditions faced by a team of medical personnel in WWII.  Although it deals with one battlefront over the course of only several days, it is an emotionally riveting account. As Bastogne, Belgium is surrounded and under siege, desperate conditions in a makeshift aid station overcrowded with wounded bring out a level of dedication and compassion inconceivable in any other situation. The American Army doctor and the Belgian nurses who are the chief protagonists of the story turn to each other for emotional support in the face of unrelenting bloodshed and trauma. Together, they overcome exhaustion and despair to find the courage to face . . .

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