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The Village of Waiting Paperback – August 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374527806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374527808
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1982-83, Packer worked for the Peace Corps as an English teacher in the village of Lavie in Togo, West Africa, and here recounts his occasionally comic, more often poignant, and frequently tragic experiences in sharp, descriptive prose. He does not romanticize Africa or Africans, but writes with an honest sense of realism and the perspective of an outsider who nevertheless cares very deeply for his subject: "The struggle to stay afloat took on endless variations in Togo. And the white foreigner who'd come on an enlightened mission, and once there managed to keep his eyes open, quickly lost his bearings in the face of it." A great deal of his passion and frustration is directed at an educational system that is impoverished, archaic and based in equal parts on rote and beatings. For Packer, Togo's educational system is a symbol of its present condition, the enduring product of a colonial legacy that has fostered both a chronic national economic crisis and a deep sense of personal inferiority among many of the Africans whom he met. The author presents a full view of Togolese customs and society, exploring such topics as work, medical care, marriage and sex, politics, drought and tourists. He is at his best when he writes about people, including himself, because he treats them not as simple characters or types, but as complex personalities, revealing their histories and psychologies with great sympathy and care.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Peace Corps volunteer Packer evokes both sympathy and amusement, while pointing out the dilemmas of contemporary African society in this tale of his experiences as an English teacher in a southern Togolese village in the early 1980s. He observes the political charades, the stalled development, and the resigned indifference of villagers, and also stands back for a wry look at himself in situations he could hardly have imagined as an undergraduate at Yale. He draws portraits of a few Togolese who are poignantly caught in a cultural and economic limbo, and in the end finds himself in a kind of psychic limbo. Recommended. Janet Stanley, Smithsonian Inst. Lib., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is a book that many PCVs either love or hate.
GGW
This beautifully written book that is set in Togo is an emotional account of a peace corps volunteer's experiences.
Paul Chana
He thought this was a good representation of his experience and I enjoyed the book very much.
Debra J Wright

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Porter on August 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
For the longest time after reading this amazing and wonderful book I worried about George Packer - how he had gotten on, if he was successful, where he had gone, and if he had written more in the same lucid and painfully honest style he used in this autobiographical essay on his years in Togo as a Peace Corps volunteer. So it was with special joy today that I discovered not only that he's just written a major work (on American liberalism) that has been reviewed by the NY Times quite favorably, but that's he's written other works as well. Truly, Packer has an intellectual honesty that is extremely rare, coupled with an innate ability to put in words the deepest and most sincere and heartfelt feelings of Peace Corps volunteer and of those who have share the volunteer experience, particularly those among us who were blessed with service in Africa. The Village of Waiting is a "travel narrative", you might call it, that transcends the genre. Highly recommended.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By GGW on April 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read a tattered, much passed around copy of Village of Waiting in my Peace Corps house in a village not far from George Packer's. I returned in October 2001. Hard to imagine that after nearly twenty years, so much of what Packer wrote about Togo has not changed very much. . . Togo still waits. When people ask me about Togo, I'm still not sure what to say. I imagine Packer is still unsure. All I can say is that it is easy to give up on Togo, quite another thing to give up on its people. Packer's reflections of life in Lavie provide a lot of insight into the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer. This is a book that many PCVs either love or hate. Although it must be said that they seem to hate it when they arrive in Togo, and love it if they read or re-read it later, especially after leaving Togo. Many PCVs have complained that he was too soft, and couldn't handle it, but it is my impression that Packer really understood his reality and that is what made it so hard for him to handle it everyday. He understood the absurdity and hardship, and did not romanticize it. It made him angry. I know how he felt. I often wondered about the characters in Packer's book, as I zoomed through Lavie on my way up-country. Luckily, this new print has some follow-up on the many characters of his village.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
I spent a semester of college in Togo about the same time the author was there. Five years later, I read this book. It was the most emotional book-reading experience I have ever had. Packer accurately describes all the emotions an American goes through when encountering life in West Africa. Ten years later, Packer wrote a moving addendum for the Boston Review, which is available online... Just find the Boston Review magazine website from Yahoo, and then do a search on George Packer. It's in the April/May 1994 Vol. XIX No. 2 edition of the Boston Review.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By crete on September 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
George Packer's ability to describe the lives of many who live in Togo make this piece of text a must-read for all, even for those who do not have an interest in serving in the Peace Corps. He writes with raw emotion and sincerity, without a tad of pretense. I'd say that Packer's foremost accomplishment in this text is that he makes no attempt to tell a story about how a superior white individual intervenes in a remote village and rids the residents of poverty and illiteracy. Rather, The Village of Waiting is a sincere account of his realization that sadly, some things just cannot be altered. I think Packer knew this from the outset, but it is interesting to read about he endures this realization during his 2-year service in Togo.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
The Village Of Waiting is an incredible description of life in West Africa. It captures the essence of being a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. Anyone who has ever been or thought about being a Peace Corps Volunteer should read this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
I read the Village of Waiting before I left for the peace corps in Benin, West Africa, and then again and again while I was there. It is the most accurate description of Peace Corps service in Togo, Benin, and other West African countries that exists. This book is an absolute MUST READ for all present, past, and future Peace Corps Volunteers of West Africa. I re-read this book whenever I want to get the essence of my experience in Benin back.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By saabrian on February 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want to cast moral judgement on George Packer, don't read this book. If you want to read the best Peace Corps book ever written, at least about life in Africa, then pick up this book. I lived in Guinea in the mid-90s, while Packer was in Togo in the early 80s. Yet I felt like he was describing my own village, my own frustrations, my own thoughts and feelings (save the prostitute). This was the book that convinced me not to write a book about my own experience. He did it, only better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paul Chana on May 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
This beautifully written book that is set in Togo is an emotional account of a peace corps volunteer's experiences. Despite the reality of the place, the author found himself attached to the soul of the people. He saw Togo from the angle of a lover of Africa. The writer is very descriptive and made it possible for the reader to relate to the story. This is the right book for those who have the desire to know about African life and the culture of the people. Coming from an outsider's view of an African country, one gets amazed by the insightful nature of it. I found Disciples of Fortune, Things Fall Apart as insightful books on Africa that brought a different dimension to the nature of this intriguing continent.
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