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Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the Sandinistas
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Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the Sandinistas

4.3 11
by Deb Olin Unferth

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Hailed as a "virtuosic one-woman show" (Time Out New York) this New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice pick tells the funny and poignant story of the year the author ran away from college with her idealistic boyfriend and followed him to Nicaragua to join the Sandinistas.

Despite their earnest commitment to a myriad of revolutionary causes and


Hailed as a "virtuosic one-woman show" (Time Out New York) this New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice pick tells the funny and poignant story of the year the author ran away from college with her idealistic boyfriend and followed him to Nicaragua to join the Sandinistas.

Despite their earnest commitment to a myriad of revolutionary causes and to each other, Deb and her boyfriend find themselves unwanted, unhelpful, and unprepared as they bop around Central America, looking for "revolution jobs." The year is 1987, a turning point in the Cold War, although the world doesn't know it yet, especially not Unferth and her fiancé (he proposes on a roadside in El Salvador). The months wear on and cracks begin to form in their relationship: they get fired, they get sick, they run out of money, they grow disillusioned with the revolution and each other. But years later the trip remains fixed in her mind and she finally goes back to Nicaragua to try to make sense of it all. Unferth's heartbreaking and hilarious memoir perfectly captures the youthful search for meaning, and is an absorbing rumination on what happens to a country and its people after the revolution is over.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This is a very funny, excoriatingly honest story of being young, semi-idealistic, stupid and in love. If you have ever been any of these things, you'll devour it.” —Dave Eggers

“Revolution calls itself a memoir, but Deb Olin Unferth's tale of dropping out of college to join the Sandinista revolution is something altogether stranger and more dazzling.” —Time Out New York

“There is something in Unferth's combination of spare language and intelligent observation, her darts of emotional insight shooting through a highly personal screen, that is reminiscent of Joan Didion. That's a lot to live up to, but the two writers share a sense of beauty and loss and get something on the page that implies something else just out of reach.” —Los Angeles Times

“Unferth's application of her imagination to her subject…evokes what David Foster Wallace refers to as ‘the click,' a feeling one gets when reading work that's firing on all cylinders.” —Christopher Sorrentino, Bookforum

“Unferth surely can write...You find yourself re-reading descriptions…simply for the pleasure of the language.” —Chicago Tribune

“[O]ne of the best memoirs of the past several years. It's a difficult book to stop reading; Unferth is charming, charismatic, and breathtakingly smart… [Revolution is] more than enough to catapult Unferth into the ranks of America's great young writers.” —Bookslut

“The uniqueness of its love story sneaks up on you.” —The Week

“Unferth's depiction of the futility of Deb's odyssey is devastatingly frank…At the heart of Revolution is Unferth's slightly eccentric take on the venerable confusion of the political and the personal…how does one become a person? How is the person to be made?” —Madison Smartt Bell, The Nation

“The book is sly, devastating, and savagely funny, with style to spare.” —Boston Phoenix

“This clearheaded and funny memoir captures the grit and chaos of a tumultuous moment in Central American history, but it's really a coming-of-age story.” —Mother Jones

“Hers is a bildungsroman for the Believer set… impossible to dislike…The jokes are crisp and understated, the sentences clean and knapped.” —New York Observer

“Eighteen and in love, the possibilities seem endless in this endearing coming-of-age book, in which the author returns years later to Nicaragua to come to terms with that tumultuous period in both world history and her own life.” —New York Post

“Here's the beauty in this very funny, very sweet, magnificently written short memoir: being young and in love and on a noble quest...maybe I know better but it sounds just grand!” —Jewish Book World

“Unferth writes with a beautiful insouciance…[T]his is good and bad news -- love doesn't go away. It just doesn't go away -- it changes into something else. Amen.” —Newsday

“Unferth's surprising voice and precise rendering lend her memoir its particular power.” —Flavorpill New York

“The way you'll actually feel, reading [Revolution], is too big to name, too expansive and breathtakingly great to minimize.” —Corduroy Books

Revolution is a ruefully funny memoir that surprises and delights at nearly every turn--through style, subject matter, and a chronological structure that hiccups with flashbacks and flash forwards.” —The Rumpus

“Unferth writes with a sly, understated appreciation for the absurd…A dryly humorous memoir of love, travel and wide-eyed idealism.” —Kirkus

“[Unferth] excels with a wry, self-deprecating voice that propels the tale forward.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Unferth] creates a memoir of unique lucidity, wit, and power.” —Booklist

“Deb Olin Unferth is one of the most ambitious and inspirational writers working today. Her memoir of idealistic, bewildered people-in-training befell me like a fever for which, I'm happy to report, there appears to be no cure. An encounter with Unferth's prose is to be permanently, wondrously afflicted by its genius.” —Heidi Julavits, author of The Uses of Enchantment

Revolution is the best of many worlds: misconceived youth, sharp humor and sharper characters, and mostly, for me, the chance to witness a brand of paragraph-to-paragraph artistry that is much too rare.” —John Brandon, author of Citrus County

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Deb Olin Unferth is the author of the story collection Minor Robberies and the novel Vacation, winner of the 2009 Cabell First Novelist Award and a New York Times Book Review Critics' Choice. Her work has been featured in Harper's Magazine, McSweeney's, The Believer, and the Boston Review. She has received two Pushcart Prizes and a 2009 Creative Capital grant for Innovative Literature and was a Harper's Bazaar Editors' Choice: Name to Know in 2011. She teaches at Wesleyan University and currently lives in New York.

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Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the Sandinistas 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Moku More than 1 year ago
This book is a gem: every page sparkles with the author's artistry. Unferth magically captures, in lean but powerful prose, both the humor and pathos of her youthful misadventures wandering around Central America with her boyfriend in search of a revolution to join. I do not read many memoirs, but this is one that I'm very glad I did not overlook.
fibi386 More than 1 year ago
i loved this book. it was hilarious, touching and real. I especially love that the author was willing to expose herself when she was a young, clueless student in love. Naturally, this only works because it's 20 years down the line. I don't usually love memoirs but this was up there with Nick FLynn's for originality and fresh writing. A seriously great book. I know people will go crazy for this one.
leighnew More than 1 year ago
Revolution is hilarious and smart and deeply moving. In genre (memoirs) where the story is often interesting, while the writing flat---Unferth has turned the world on its head. Her prose crackles, all in a riveting story. It made me think about my own teenage years--both longing for them and wanting to die of humiliation and unable to stop laughing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MariaSavva_Author More than 1 year ago
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.
BookHounds More than 1 year ago
Picture yourself 18 years old, a freshman in college and on your own for the first time in your life. With your first taste of freedom, you fall for the wrong boy and run off to South America because he thinks it is a good idea. Deb Olin Unferth does exactly this. I kept asking myself, why would anyone do this? Well, Deb answers like a typical unsure 18 year old with this memoir. There are some seriously funny moments in this book, but I was a bit frustrates in a couple of stories where they just kind of ending with "I forget" or "can't remember", but then I realized I couldn't remember anything from my time as an 18 year old except that I thought I knew everything. Her revolutionary period didn't involve fighting but lots of short stints of being domestic help since some one needs to help the kids displaced by war. Her recounting of helping in an orphanage is truly inspired. She decides that she will help the kids learn to speak English and farm. All noble ideals except the she doesn't know enough Spanish to teach them English and the kids know more than her about gardening. She buys flower seeds instead of vegetables. This is a very wonderful read for anyone who wished they ran away to rebel, but didn't have the guts. I received this book from the publisher at no expense in exchange for my honest review.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
This memoir is about a young woman's journey to find a revolution in Central America with her boyfriend. George and Deb are two lost young Americans who are looking for a war to help fight and maybe love along the way in 1987 Central American. The writing is witty and fast paced. This short book though is really about first love and why this one year in the life of the author seems to be haunting her some twenty years later.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sjurban More than 1 year ago
I love reading memoirs, but I struggle with reviewing them. It's hard to give a book a good review if you don't like the author, regardless of how well written the book is. I'll try to be fair. Once I started this book, I wanted to keep on reading it. The style drew me in and the stories about the author's life were well put together. It flowed nicely. I didn't like Deb at all though. She struck me as a spoiled child. People with attitudes and personalities like hers are the reason that people in other countries dislike Americans so much. She wanted a "revolution" so she could have an adventure. She gave little to no thought about the people who were living through it for real. At one point she even said that shortly after leaving the orphanage where she had been working she "forgot all about the kids." That was when I really stopped liking her. I wouldn't read anything else that she writes, her writing ability aside, just because I don't want to give her any of my money.