Thursday, July 21, 2011

Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War by Deb Olin Unferth — 224 pgs

Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the WarThis is the hilarious and moving true story of how a woman named Deb and her boyfriend George randomly decided to travel to South America to join the revolution. When they arrived in South America, they had no idea which revolution to join, nor did they even have any concrete reason for joining. What they wanted was to be involved in something bigger than themselves, and their altruistic natures led them to believe that this something was the revolution. Traveling through South America in a wayward fashion, they go from Mexico City to Nicaragua to El Salvador, bumbling their way along and getting themselves into alternately comic and frightening situations. It seems that Deb and George’s help is not wanted, and though they try to become involved in any way they can, they are quickly fired from their jobs as revolutionaries and sent packing. But there’s more to the story than that, because Deb isn’t sure she wants to be with George anymore, and though she’s strangely obsessed with him, she sometimes can’t stand him. As the two bump along, becoming increasingly ill due to poor sanitary conditions, they also find themselves at an emotional crossroads. Chasing the revolution with zest and zeal, both Deb and George will find themselves in the most unlikely places, and find that the revolution taking place inside themselves is much larger than the one they are running through the jungles to find.

One of the things I love best is when a book manages to be genuinely funny without trying too hard. This was that book. While I was reading, I was laughing and snorting with glee because Deb Unferth has a way of just laying it all out there and sharing the ridiculous and absurd along with the poignant and thought-provoking. From the very first sentence, I knew this was going to be a book I was going to love, and I wasn't wrong at all. It was a relatively fast and short read but I enjoyed every second of it, and of Deb and George’s journey.

First off, I should mention that when Deb and George set off for their journey into revolution, they were both rather young and didn’t have the support of their parents. They basically left college and ran away to South America to be revolutionaries. I’m not sure they even knew what a revolution was or why one would join up to fight in one. As they make their way towards and away from some very scary destinations, they find themselves participating in some strange ways: Like building bicycles for the revolution, or minding children who are caught in the war zone. It’s almost like they’re attracted to and called by bizarre enterprises, and of course, being so young, they think they are the height of coolness and altruism by doing these strange things. Of course these jobs don’t last long, and soon they are fired from their jobs as revolutionaries and on the road looking for another gig. But the problem is that during this time, most all of the revolutions are just starting to wind down. When they join the Sandinistas, they find that most of the time they are on duty, they are really scrounging for food or trading things on the black market (things they had agreed that they would never do.)

In addition to their hunt for the revolution, Deb and George are having problems of a different sort. Deb is sort of clingy and is always hanging all over George and letting him make all the decisions. This bothers her on one level and satisfies her on another, so she’s always at war with herself. George, meanwhile, is a strange duck and has a lot of incongruous behavior and ideas that make him unpopular with both the natives and the other revolutionaries. He’s one of those quiet guys, and though he has good intentions, his quietness seems to be hiding a whole lot of crazy. The relationship antics that pepper the pages of Revolution are wildly funny and weird but also somehow strangely sad. As Deb and George make their way from country to country, I could see their relationship deteriorating bit by bit. Deb doesn’t hold back about how she’s both in love with George and annoyed to death with him. All of this pressure comes to a head when they finally agree to head home, and things go from bad to worse in the relationship department.

The last parts of this book intermingle some of the singular and weird scenes from the couple’s stint in various revolutions and Deb’s attempt, many years later, to track down George. It seems she is a little obsessed with him and does some strange things to find him. Like repeatedly calling a private eye to track George down, and pretending to be a different person each time she calls (she obviously didn’t fool the private eye, of course). The whole book is delivered in Deb’s deadpan style, and I couldn’t help but get caught up in the bizarre humor of this couple who were sort of good-hearted bumblers. It was uncanny how unprepared these two were for life as revolutionaries, and just how young they appeared, both in terms of their relationship and their mission. I felt sorry for them a lot of the time but I was also overjoyed with the humorous way that Unferth tells her story.

I had a great time with this book, and as it was such a fast and enjoyable read, I’m hoping to read it again soon. This was another book that I followed my husband around the house reading passages out of, and even he was shaking his head and laughing. If you’re looking for something light and comical, this is the book for you. It tells a most implausible story in a very comic way and keeps you guessing as to what will eventually befall Deb and George. It was one hell of a fun read and unlike anything I have read before. Highly recommended!


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

20 comments:

Aths said...

I just saw this one somewhere on the web yesterday and was thinking that it sounded cool. I can see how the humor is strange and sad - I find I have to be careful when I read a book like this. On a good day, I will love it a lot, on a bad one, I'll get depressed, lol. I'm glad to see this one is so engrossing and I'm going to add it.

TheBookGirl said...

Reading your review made me think that this is one of those "truth is stranger than fiction" books...I am amazed that they were able to do this without ending up in real jeopardy at some point.
I'm assuming this journey took place at least 20-30 years ago given the Sandinista reference?

bermudaonion said...

I think this is the first review I've seen of this book. I have a feeling I'll like it too.

Jenny said...

Hmm it seems really naive for them to randomly join a revolution for the sake of joining... I can't imagine how scary that must have been! Sounds funny but I wonder if I would hve been bothered by that obsession thing lol.

Sandy Nawrot said...

You would have to be slightly off-kilter to do such a thing! It sounds like something my crazy cousin would have done at the age of 17, for a lark and for adventure. I live on a completely different planet than that! Still I think it sounds like a funny story.

Marie said...

Awesome. I love that you trailed your husband reading bits- that's a sign of a winner for sure!

Audra said...

Sounds like an insane book! I can appreciate the impetus to run off and join a revolution -- I've had that feeling before -- but Deb sounds a bit weird! I've had good luck with memoirs recently though so I might have to give this one a try since you enjoyed it so much!

Tracy said...

This one does sound intriguing - and I love that title! BTW, what year is it set in?

Zibilee said...

BookGirl and Tracy,
Most of the book is set in the early 80's and her recollections of the revolution go on until about 1998.

Vasilly said...

This book sounds hilarious! H, this is such a great review. I had no idea before this post, what the book was about.

Aarti said...

I must admit that the premise of the book is really bizarre to me. How do you just decide to join some random revolution out of an altruistic sense? And not even KNOW which revolution to join? It's a little frightening, but I am glad it came off funny instead! It's interesting as I think a lot of people, particularly the English, had this sense of idealism during the Spanish Civil War and did much the same thing. Just showed up in Spain to fight Franco.

Darlene said...

Great review! You've made this sound like such a good and fun read and we can certainly use some of those in between the heavier stuff. This is the first I'm hearing of this book so I'll have to check it out.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds very fun! I also do that trail-the-husband thing when I'm reading a book with good bits!

Amy said...

Uhhhh this sounds really odd and like nothing I'd ever pick up. But you also make it sound so interesting! I'm definitely intrigued by it.

Milli said...

Glad you enjoyed it! I completely agree, books that are sunny without trying are the best C:
I think this is probably the first I've seen of this book. I'll definitly try to find it and give it a read.

-milli www.doodlereads.blogspot.com

celawerdblog said...

Sounds like a fun little read. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Yes! Give me a book recommendation that will have me reading bits aloud to J - definitely a sign of a "must read".

Thank you for this review of a book that has escaped my notice.

Liz @ Cleverly Inked said...

The plot it self isn't appealing to me. I am glad it was something that fit your appetite.

Amy said...

I laughed out loud when I read that Deb and George were fired from being revolutionaries and sent away...it seems ludicrous that there help in a revolution isn't wanted!
I expected that one of the couple would become disenchanted with the other esp. being so young...traveling in the best of circumstances can sorely test a relationship and the way Deb & George do it and then get sick on top of it, you either marry after an experience like that or you never speak to each other again!

The section of your review about Deb and George's relationship and their personalities is very interesting and gives a whole other dimension to the book.

I love that this book is genuinely funny all the way through!
This one is going on my tbr list! Thank you!

Geosi said...

I love books that are fast pace and so this one is for me...And I enjoyed those bits about your husband.

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