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A great armchair adventure that should inspire others to consider voluntourism as a way to help others and see the world.

One family’s adventures volunteering in foreign countries.

Getting bitten by a spider monkey multiple times was not what Marshall was looking for when he and his wife decided to take their two teenage children on a six-month, around-the-world trip based on volunteerism. “Uninspired” in his work, with his eyes “constantly red from too much computer time,” the author was “listless, unmotivated, going through the motions of life—which was a fairly accurate description of my marriage at the time, too.” Although still in love, there was no spark or passion with his wife, Traca. They wanted more for themselves and for their children, who were locked into the computerized social media world like so many American children. So, they rented their house in Maine and set out, first landing at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary in Costa Rica, where the spider monkeys were free to roam and the humans were often at their mercy. From there, the family flew to New Zealand and worked on a variety of farms, spending days pulling mountains of weeds to reclaim the native bush from invasive plants. Then they went to Thailand for a month, where they taught English in a small village school and Marshall’s two children “were treated more like visiting pop stars than untrained volunteers.” The next stops included an orphanage in India, a school in the Himalayas and a short visit in Portugal. Marshall’s use of rich details locates readers firmly in each time and place, enabling them to sense the adventure, wonder and joy he experienced in his surroundings and in watching his children grow into hardworking, more responsible teens, as well as the frustrations and disappointments he and his family inevitably encountered along the way.

A great armchair adventure that should inspire others to consider voluntourism as a way to help others and see the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0345549648

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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