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REVIEW: Revolution by Deb Olin Unferth


Rising literary star Deb Olin Unferth offers a new twist on the coming-of-age memoir in this utterly unique and captivating story of the year she ran away from college with her Christian boyfriend and followed him to Nicaragua to join the Sandinistas.
Despite their earnest commitment to a myriad of revolutionary causes and to each other, the couple 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. The East-West balance has begun to tip, although the world doesn't know it yet, especially not Unferth and her fiancĂ© (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.

About 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. She teaches at Wesleyan University and currently lives in New York.


  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805093230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805093230

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.


  1. Amazing! I can't believe someone would do this, even at 18! Definitely want to pick this book up.

  2. Not my cup of tea, but a great review non the less! :)



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