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Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War Hardcover – February 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805093230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805093230
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,347,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1987, Unferth set off to Central America with her idealistic boyfriend, George, determined to join "the revolution." Any revolution would do. In her deft account, Unferth retraces their journey, beginning in Guatemala and working north. Though the duo weren't able to play an active role until they reached violent El Salvador, where they cared for children literally caught in the middle of a civil war, took part in protests, and interviewed priests about assassinations, the couple also wrestled with an inner revolution—their relationship. Bonded by frequent interrogations from soldiers, ever-present illnesses, heat, and gigantic, "evil" spiders, the two grew close, only to find their bond dissolve as time wore on and they made their way home. Though her journey was certainly dramatic, Unferth avoids melodrama and doesn't dwell on particularly nasty aspects; her focus is on the story, and in that arena, she excels with a wry, self-deprecating voice that propels the tale forward. Though her emotional economy (she never fully explores her complicated relationship with her family) gives the book an unfinished quality that can be frustrating, Unferth's prose is a pleasure to read. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Unferth has accrued praise and awards for her cutting-edge fiction, and now readers will discover the origin of her distinct sensibility in this disarmingly forthright chronicle of a dangerously quixotic sojourn. Unferth dropped out of college during her freshman year to accompany her boyfriend, George, to El Salvador and Nicaragua, where they planned to join the Revolution. It was 1987, and these zealous misfit-innocents were drawn to the radiance of liberation theology. Two gauche, earnest, and stoic white kids with some Spanish and no understanding of politics, war, or poverty, Unferth and George barely survived their run-ins with machine-gun-toting soldiers, gigantic spiders, vicious microbes, thieves, activists, journalists, priests, and prostitutes. As wild and gnarly as this tale of youthful hubris is, Unferth’s prose remains as sure and slicing as a machete, clearing a path through a jungle of emotions. As Unferth revisits the appalling civil wars of Central America in her rueful and intoxicating account of a mad adventure and crazily improvised rites of initiation into selfhood, she creates a memoir of unique lucidity, wit, and power. --Donna Seaman

Customer Reviews

The book is very well written, and kept me interested.
Maria Savva
Unferth has a singular, quietly potent voice and dry wit--some sections are laugh-out-loud funny--and her story is poignant without being sentimental.
Karen Kahler
Even now, there's no realisation that she was helping a gang of murderous thugs.
Kiwi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sarah C. Crossland on February 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Calling Deb Olin Unferth's debut memoir by its short title alone will leave readers confused and hungry for something else--this book is, in fact, all about its subtitle: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War. What is most redeeming about Olin Unferth's literary journey is just this--her utter honesty, the narcissism of coming of age, even when one is eating only bread, preparing for a shortage of water, and fending off spiders in the shapes of plates. There is a beautiful restlessness to it, especially to Olin Unferth's romance with fellow "Sandalista" George. She writes, at the beginning of the essay "Love" (the book is composed of very short "flash" memoirs, "We didn't use the word 'love' with each other. We prided ourselves on it. Not for the usual fairy-tale Communist reasons (love is a capitalist prison) (Communists are always so drearily romantic) but for our own fairy-tale reason: we wouldn't say it unless we knew our love would last forever..." Here we are at a pivotal point in Central American history--the perpetual turning-over of governments, of revolutions, again and again, all across the map--and Olin Unferth writes of her simple human experience. It is refreshingly politically incorrect.

The book reads very quickly--the prose style is very minimalist--very fitting for the setting/scenes of the story. It didn't blow me out out of the water, but it seems to me the sort of thing you have to do at least once. Much like going off to join a revolution.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Karen Kahler on March 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've always liked Deb Olin Unferth's fiction, and her memoir, Revolution, should interest old fans and new readers alike. Revolution recounts the year Unferth fled her conventional college life and embarked on a haphazard journey to South America with her boyfriend, hoping to join a revolution. Unferth has a singular, quietly potent voice and dry wit--some sections are laugh-out-loud funny--and her story is poignant without being sentimental. I loved this book, and can't wait to see what this immensely talented writer does next.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Maria Savva on March 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When Deb Olin Unferth was 18, she fell in love with George, a fellow student, who was rather rebellious, and bit strange. Being in love, it seemed young Deb would do anything for her boyfriend. She changed her religion from Jewish to Christian, to her family's dismay, and followed George on his journey to `foment' the revolution in Central America.

The naiveté of youth leads Deb to somewhere she is totally unprepared for, and the often treacherous journey to Nicaragua leaves an impression on her that remains to this day. From reading the memoir, it seems that some twenty years after her venture into this unknown territory, she is still deeply affected by that trip. Indeed she made a journey back to Nicaragua after ten years and then continued to visit the places she'd been to in her youth for years, as if the country had some kind of hold on her.

This book is one woman's story about how love can make people do the strangest things, and also how first love can leave its mark for a lifetime. It appears, from reading the book, that the author retains a deep curiosity about her ex-fiancé, George (he proposed whilst they were on the road and they broke off the engagement soon after. They lost touch a few years after returning home).

On their trip to join the revolution in 1987, Deb and George find jobs and get fired, sleep in spider-infested hotels, get very ill, get robbed many times, and almost drown at sea. There are very interesting stories about their adventure told in a humourous and sentimental way by the author.

The book is very well written, and kept me interested. It's quite thought-provoking and insightful in parts.

Reviewed by Maria Savva as a reviewer for Bookpleasures.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jo Ann Heydron on March 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Is it easier to tell the truth in fiction or nonfiction? Deb Olin Unferth, author of the short-story collection Minor Robberies and the novel Vacation, has opted for nonfiction this time around. In her memoir Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War, a clueless girl and her Christian boyfriend want to go to Cuba but "don't know how to get there," so they head south instead, toward a Central America caught up in the Cold War.

It's 1987, two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas have deposed the Somoza family but struggle to feed their people and hold back the Contras. The bloody civil war in El Salvador is approaching its crisis. Honduran and Guatemalan death squads routinely gun down campesinos in the mountains, insisting they are insurgents. Manuel Noriega is el presidente of Panama--for a little while longer.

"Dear Mom and Dad," Debbie writes from Nogales, Texas. "I'm sorry to tell you in this way, but I've left school and am going to help foment the revolution. I am a Christian now and I have been called by God. Due to the layout of the land, we are taking the bus."

Please read the rest of this review at [...]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Ergovich on April 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this memoir in one day. I remember the Sandinistas and Father Romero and and all the South American Turmoil in the 80s. Deb has artfully woven the political and social upheaval in South America and tells her own personal tale of love, youthful ideals and rebellion. This memoir makes a statement about revolution on the political and personal level and Deb spins a thoughtful, literary testament to a time and place in her life painted against a modern revolution. I highly recommend this memoir. I saw Deb discuss her book and read. She is a diminutive woman in stature but not in talent. Good Writing!
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