Tim's Reviews > Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War

Revolution by Deb Olin Unferth
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's review
Nov 17, 2013

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bookshelves: latin-america, nicaragua, memoir
Read from November 10 to 15, 2013

Revolution is a memoir of the author's year spent tramping around Central America with her boyfriend looking to "foment revolution," as the goodbye letter to her parents put it (+1 for the use of "foment" in this context). It doesn't seem to have gone very well for her (to say nothing of the Central Americans); it starts off funny and ends up grimly funny. They get fired from several "revolution jobs," get sick, get robbed, spend many weeks living in spider-infested hostels, start to question their pure, undying love for each other. Then they go back home to college.

It's a pretty funny book, and a quick read at 175 pages. The author crafts short, punchy chapters, each relating a self-deprecating story that feels like it's been sanded down by years of sarcastic re-tellings to late-night groups of laughing friends. She adopts a tone of amazed wonderment at her younger self, amazement at her naivete, amazement at the crazy stuff she went through.

There are many sharply realized observations of central america in the 1980s: the grim paranoia of El Salvador under military rule, the manic contradictions of Sandinista Nicaragua, Costa Rica's smug normalcy. I can report that many things about Nicaragua then are still true today -- like the spider-infested hotel rooms. But despite what the blurb says there's no "rumination" about the legacy of the 1980s. Central America is just a bit player in a story about the author's relationship and her process of growing up.

What the book doesn't include is any real sort of emotional summing up. I kept hoping for a little forgiveness for her youthful idealism, some peace made with mistakes made. There is a conclusion of sorts at the end of the book, but it is way less conventional. No doubt this is by design because perhaps the author still doesn't feel summed up about that period in her life.

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Reading Progress

11/15/2013 marked as: currently-reading
11/17/2013 marked as: read

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