Author: George Packer
Book takes place in the country: YES
Author is from the country: NO (but he lived there for 18 months)
I have visited: NO
This is my 61st book of the year
I go back and forth with this challenge of wanting to read fiction or non fiction from these different countries. I think for some countries fictional novels seem like a fine choice. But for a lot of these small, poor, African countries, I really believe non-fiction is the right choice. To really learn something about the country and the people.
This is the author's own story of the time he lived in Togo with the Peace Corps. He was there for 18 months in the early 1980s. He was stationed in a village called Lavie as an English Teacher. What he finds is the desperately poor, who pin all of their hopes on the people who are sent to help them. He gets to know a wide variety of people while he is there - the villagers, the chiefs, the children at his school, and tries to figure out how he fits into their world. He comes to care for the people in the village and wants to help so badly. But knows that he will never make enough difference. That he will never be able to catch up with how much they all need.
This was a good book. I thought it was very, very well written. The story was engaging, and George tells a lot of stories about his time there and the people, and he expresses his frustrations well. When you first start this book you will wonder to yourself "wow George - what were you even doing there? You seem to just be focusing on the negative". BUT - as the story goes along, it becomes more well rounded and you start to understand his frustration. And you come to realize that we would probably all feel that way - especially growing up in middle class America. You would feel helpless in what would look like a hopeless situation.
I encourage you to read this book. It gave me a really good look into the village life in Togo.
Stars: 4 1/2