Volunteer

Volunteer

5.0 1
by Carter Coleman
     
 

After numerous infidelities and a messy break-up, a burnt-out attorney joins the Peace Corps to reform and redeem himself. He finds peace in the serene plains and mountains of Tanzania, teaching villagers to fish--until he becomes attached to one of his young charges who's about to undergo a barbaric ritual to please her fiance. 288 pp. Print ads & publicity. Author…  See more details below

Overview

After numerous infidelities and a messy break-up, a burnt-out attorney joins the Peace Corps to reform and redeem himself. He finds peace in the serene plains and mountains of Tanzania, teaching villagers to fish--until he becomes attached to one of his young charges who's about to undergo a barbaric ritual to please her fiance. 288 pp. Print ads & publicity. Author publicity. 50,000 print.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Impressive action scenes begin and end this debut novel by magazine journalist Coleman. Between them are brief, haunting descriptions of the incursions of pop culture on the rural life of Tanzania, but there's a heavy equatorial stillness at the heart of the story. Rutledge Jordan is a Peace Corps volunteer five months away from the end of his contract, teaching Usambara Mountain dwellers to farm fish. In his free time, he rescues a runt eaglet and trains it, and he obsesses about his failure to marry the woman back home and to settle into life as a member of a prestigious law firm in Memphis. When he meets Zanifa, a 16-year-old innocent engaged to the sinister local sultan and scheduled to undergo ritual circumcision before the ceremony, his lust for her and his scorn for the sultan provoke Jordan to make a grand, if self-serving, effort to save Zanifa from mutilation. A few Graham Greene-like characters hover at the edge of the narrative, but neither they nor Coleman's themes (the unworldly but uninnocent American in Africa, the coming of democracy to Tanzania) achieve three-dimensionality. Coleman ends up with an engaging travelogue but a formulaic story. (Mar.) FYI: Coleman lived for two years in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania.
Library Journal
Coleman's first novel is about the heavy cost of carrying one's own problems and culturally conditioned views into encounters with an alien people. Lawyer Rutledge Jordan loses his fiance because of his incessant womanizing. To escape his sense of loss, he joins the Peace Corps and is assigned to Tanzania, where he helps natives build fish ponds. There, he meets an attractive young half-breed, Zanifa, soon to be married to a native sultan. Before the marriage, she will be circumcised in a barbaric and painful ritual. Rutledge sets out to persuade Zanifa to refuse to participate. Persuasion turns to seduction, described in intensely erotic prose. A friend warns, "It's not your country. You can't alter their behavior." The sultan threatens vengeance. But events have gone too far. The quality and empathetic breadth of writing make this an accomplished novel, satisfying to the most discriminating reader. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/97; Coleman was a stringer for the Nairobi bureau of Time magazine.Ed.]David Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus
George Plimpton
A gripping and compelling first novel -- a love story set in the mountains of East Africa by a young novelist well versed in both the human and natural conditions of that area. An astonishing debut. -- George Plimpton
Shelby Foote
Carter Coleman writes of Africa as a long-term visitor who has learned to feel at home in the Usambara Mountains; at home, that is, until he crosses lines he might better have stepped back from. But then there would have been no story, no first novel, and we would be the losers. -- Shelby Foote
Kirkus Reviews
A thirtyish American goes to Africa to find redemption but comes across instead as a self-centered and culturally insensitive mischief-maker. Newcomer Coleman, an American who attended the University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, vividly evokes the East African countryside, and his descriptions of village life and local politics are deft and to the point. But the heart of his story—a Memphis attorney's attempts to salvage a misspent life by serving in the Peace Corps—is fundamentally flawed. Rutledge Jordan had cheated so often on Anna, his longtime love, that she finally left him for good. Now, heartbroken and disenchanted with his law practice, Rutledge is in Africa trying to save himself while teaching the local tribespeople how to build fish farms and while also observing the habitat of endangered eagles. To help preserve the species, he removes an eaglet from its nest and brings it home to rear and later release into the wild. A 16-year-old local girl, Zanifa, bright as well as beautiful, assists him in feeding and training the bird. Rutledge is attracted to her, of course, and when he learns she's to be married to Kimweri—a local Oxford-educated potentate who insists that she first undergo female circumcision—Rutledge initiates her sexually. Given the place, his age, and her impoverished circumstances, however, the suggestion of opportunism rather than heroism is unavoidable for the reader. Obsessed, Rutledge abducts Zanifa from Kimweri's domain just before the marriage is to take place; then he flees with her (after his eagle brutally wounds Kimweri) to Kenya, where he enrolls her in a school paid for with money he's earned smuggling dope and gems. Kimweri ispowerful and will exact a brutal revenge—but it doesn't matter: According to his lights but unfortunately not the reader's, Rutledge has become a changed (and better) version of himself. An unintentionally distasteful tale of an ugly American.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780446522038
Publisher:
Hachette Book Group
Publication date:
08/23/2004
Pages:
308
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)

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