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White Man's Grave
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White Man's Grave

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  283 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Michael Killigan, a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, is missing. The search for him is launched separately by his father, Randall, a master-of-the-universe and warlord of the Indianapolis bankruptcy courts. and Michael's best friend, Boone Westfall. Once in Freetown, Boone falls in with Sam Lewis, an unscrupulous Volunteer who's fed up with Sierra Leone, a country whi ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 15th 1995 by Picador USA (first published June 1st 1994)
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Community Reviews

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Evan
While this is a work of fiction, it's a good backgrounder on the people and culture of Sierra Leone. It was written in the 90s, so you definitely need to keep that in mind when you're reading about the protagonist's custom laptop computer which is equipped with a CD-ROM drive.
Julie H.
I loved this book! The quick premise is that an ill/underprepared Peace Corps volunteer goes missing and his ruthless uber-capitalist father goes after him. Neither father nor son is quite prepared to take the local traditions seriously and...well...you learn a lot about cross-cultural respect, about indigenous belief systems and having a healthy respect for things see and unseen and, as but one consequence, you'll pay a lot more attention to trees. Parts are only scary, whereas other parts are ...more
Ami
Jun 03, 2008 Ami rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like reading research papers on other cultures
I found Dooling's book to be a huge disappointment. It's a bit annoying to have the author and characters tell you the culture is too complex to be explained, but then they attempt to explain it anyway and primarily focus on witchcraft, rather than family and inter-village relations, as well colonial failures that have affected the culture of the Mende people. Mostly, I felt like Dooling had written a research paper on the Mende tribe and tried to turn it into a story. While there was some promi ...more
Diana Coe
Dec 07, 2007 Diana Coe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: must-reads
I have read White Man's Grave three times now. This is the one paperback I have bought twice and now keep along with all of my beloved hardcovers. Dooling writes a wonderfully intertwined tale of two very disparate cultures. The crux of the story revolves around the almighty American dollar versus ancient, time-honored African customs. I came away from this book feeling very much vindicated in my belief that cultures should remain intact and while we can do our small part to help (as these peace ...more
Kris
Library Journal
Behind the fairly simple story of a Peace Corps volunteer missing in West Africa and a friend's search to find him, one feels that some larger significance is brooding and expects it to appear at any moment. Unfortunately, it never does. The pace is fast, the style lush, and the atmosphere slightly ominous; there is plenty of action, adventure, and suspense; but somehow Dooling has not quite managed to make it all come alive. The result has to be one of the longest shaggy-dog stor
...more
Leif Erik
This is the Great PCV novel. Funnier than any novel on the suffering of western Africa has any right to be, and a corrosive commentary on dominate tribal values of the middle of North America. Westfall's vision of his life in an Indiana sub-division is worth the price of admission alone.
Pat
Witchcraft anyone? Bush devils and fierce satire collide in this story partly set in the jungle in Sierra Leone -- a must read for aspiring Peace Corps volunteers who are poised to disappear in West Africa. Dig it!
Stephanie
Fun fiction with a suprisingly accurate bit about Peace Corps hostels and bars.
Titus Burley
Occasionally a book surfaces that is so thought-provoking it demands insertion into an academic curriculum. If the book is a novel it is a near certainty that if incorporated into a curriculum, that volume will only go into an English or Literature curriculum. "White Man's Grave" is one of those rare novels that deserves inclusion into the required reading list of any Sociology curriculum. The book raises fundamental questions about cultural perceptions of reality and poses a powerful case for o ...more
Nancy
This was perhaps my third reread of this amazing book. It is still fascinating and scary. All the stuff Joseph Conrad hinted about in "Heart of Darkness," Dooling actually describes, and it's terrifying. No wonder the people of Sierra Leone are so frightened of Doctors without Borders. This explains their thinking. Highly recommended.
Steve
Funny, only slightly annoying. I'm not the biggest humor fan. Lots of local insights; I hope the author knows as much as he seems to. I hate being misled.
Dirk Baranek
Eines der komischsten Bücher, das ich kenne! Es handelt sich im Prinzip um einen Vergleich religiöser Kulturen - der des weißen Amerika und der des schwarzen Afrikas. Die Geschichte spielt zumeist in Afrika, wo ein US-Amerikaner in die Irrungen und Wirrungen afrikanischer Vodookulte gerät mit all ihren abgründigem Hexen- und Zauberglauben. Basiert auf wissenschaftlich basierten, religionssoziologischen Feldforschungen und ist hinreißend witzig erzählt, aber nicht auf Kosten dieser Leute. Sagen w ...more
William Dooling
Some of the best fiction written about Africa, this book has it all: Witches, Pidgin English, Mercenaries, Lawyers, and Giant Bats.

Obviously, I'm going to be a bit biased (and if you can't figure out why, just look at this page a bit more), but I don't throw recommendations around lightly, if you care at all about belonging to a "global community" that includes west africa, you need to read this book.

Statements like "We must appreciate and respect other cultures" are trite and easily dismissed
...more
Michael "Mick Dawg" Joseph
This book has ended up in the pile of not-finished, and it's largely because the book features a number of cultural references that were much more relevant in 1994, when the book came out. I bought it for about a dollar, and if I end up needing space on the shelf, this book will probably be on the chopping block. I've attempted to read it four different times, which is about my limit for a book. I've finished books I hated, just to find the endgame. It takes a great deal for me to give up on a b ...more
Suzanne
Wickedly funny, ugly American satire of cultural clash between classic greedy Westerners and a superstitious, primitive West African society. When Randall Killigan's Peace Corp son goes missing in
Sierra Leone, he receives a voodoo package that changes his life. Meanwhile in Africa, his best friend is searching for Michael Killigan, unwittingly wreaking havoc by his complete misunderstanding of the culture, and is also changed in ways that will remain with him forever. Not a good recruiting ad fo
...more
Laura
I really enjoyed this book. It reads almost as a mystery but Dooling brings an element of fear to the story as well. A father searches for his son in a country with a culture he doesn't understand. I think many Americans have a hard time understanding the many cultural ways that Africa differs from the world we live in. This book made me think about the experiences that my students and their families had living in Africa and how strange the United States must seem to them.
Paul Spencer
This is one of the best books I've ever read. I would recommend it to anyone. Perhaps it is because I've been to countries like this, but this book had it all. A good story, gut splitting humor and a setting that is so interesting. To bad it is such a dangerous place to visit now.

Anyone who reads this - READ THIS BOOK - it's also available on tape and CD read by George Guidell. Also a good way to read this book.
Ann-maree
The author started out with a brilliant idea to write about Sierra Leone, it's culture and beliefs. However, somewhere along the line he lost the plot and what started out to be a good read was similar to buying that craved for chocolate cake and trying to eat the whole lot in one sitting! Nice try, a very heavy read.
Kim Pruitt
This book was recommended to me during my African studies class at Oklahoma State University. My professor was the most engaging white man of small stature who ALWAYS wore a bow tie and had an undying love for Sierra Leone and Africa itself. he book is a wonderful window into Africa and it's complex relationship with the world including those trying to help.
Rae
An American Peace Corps worker disappears in deepest darkest Sierra Leone. His best friend and father try in various ways to find him and are affected in different ways. This is a campy story in the tradition of Evelyn Waugh and Joseph Conrad. The tribal witchcraft angle is intriguing.
Alan
Aug 06, 2011 Alan added it
A peace corps volunteer in Sierra Leone disappears in mysterious circumstances. His best friend travels to Sierra Leoneto find him and is trapped in a world of witchcraft and cultural confusion. A satire with a fresh look at US society and culture from a different viewpoint.
Lynn
Very funny book about a Peace Corps volunteer who goes missing in Sierra Leone. Brilliant juxtaposition of African and American cultures. Great dialogue, especially using the dialect in Sierra Leone. Great satire always includes great truths and this book is no exception.
Ashley
I wonder if this author knows what subtlety means? He bashed me over the head page after page describing the hyperinflation of his character's egos. I couldn't face the idea of reading his descriptions of Sierra Leone. Threw it away after 30 pages.
Belen
This is a satirical story of a peace corps volunteer who goes missing in Africa and his corporate lawyer father who goes looking for him. It is viciously funny. I really liked it. The same author wrote Critical Care, which is also great.
Ron
A thrilling mystery/adventure tale intertwined with current affairs in a West African nation and a hallucinatory exploration of voodoo culture. First rate story telling from a former attorney who lived in the region as a Peace Corps worker.
Jeanne
This is about the search for a missing Peace Corps volunteer in Sierre Leone by his father and his best friend. It's satirical fiction and very amusing. My friend Belen read it and liked it a lot and since it was set in Africa I had to try it!
Thurston
Excellent book. Having spent two years in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, I can attest to its accuracy. Anyone planning on traveling in this part of the world would be well advised to read this book.
Yetunde
Like Poisonwood Bible, this book does an excellent job of dispelling myths and (frankly) dashing idealistic ideas about life in traditional African societies. And there's a mystery in it!
Jessica
I read this book when I was preparing for Sierra Leone. It taught me Krio, customs, but still didn't prepare me for what I saw.
Debbie
Two men's very different journeys to Africa. Funny, satirical and full of energy. Well written.
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