Thursday, February 10, 2011

Revolution by Deb Olin Unferth

Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War by Deb Olin Unferth is a memoir most easily summarized by an excerpt from the book itself:
"My boyfriend and I went to join the revolution.
We couldn’t find the first revolution.
The second revolution hired us on and then let us go.
We went to the other revolutions in the area- there were several- but every one we came to let us hang around for a few weeks but then made us leave.
We ran out of money and at last we came home.
I was eighteen. That’s the whole story."
Focusing on the year 1987, the memoir is told in a voice that is part naive 18 year old, desperately following her boyfriend wherever he goes, and part wise woman reflecting on her youthful experiences. Revolution is told in short chapters, fluttering throughout time, beginning with Unferth and her boyfriend, George, returning from Central America, with Unferth desperately craving McDonalds, "I had food in my heart and mind that morning", she writes. Later in the memoir when their Nicaraguan visas run out they go to Costa Rica. At this point they are both extremely malnourished and Unferth has taken on the look of a pregnant woman due to some kind of parasite likely living in her stomach, inflating it round and smooth. They purchase chocolate cake and Diet Coke and with a full mouth, Unferth states "Capitalism is wonderful." 

Revolution manages to be both funny and heart-warming, told with a dry sense of humour and a remarkable openness. Unferth easily admits that she was so in love with George, a desperate young love, that she was willing to drop out of college and follow him into dangerous places, deciding to be Christian along the way. Her family was Jewish and her decision to abandon their religion was perhaps more disturbing to them then that fact that she had left home and written them from the Mexican border about her plans to find a revolution. Unfortunately, finding a revolution proves more difficult than George and her imagined. They get fired from an orphanage when Unferth refuses to wear a bra and instead travel around Central America with a tape recorder, interviewing various people and recording over old rock cassettes. Unferth seems incredibly unaware of the danger she is encountering, more concerned about whether or not she should marry George. Writing on her experiences with the revolution, she says:
"We had absolutely no effect on anything that happened. The only thing that changed as a result of our presence was us."
Unferth's writing is incredible, she has an eye for tiny details and description which are what make Revolution so memorable. Her writing is both quirky and profound, and she manages to find a touch of humour in all situations. For example, she writes that benefit of having this parasite that inflated her stomach was that people often thought she was pregnant and she was not beyond using that to get food. Unferth also delves into what happened to her and George afterwards, including how she hired a private detective to find him, supposedly because she was writing this book but she was possibly writing this book as an excuse to find out what had happened to him. It is a remarkably genuine story of her first true love and the desperate obsession that comes along with it.

In addition to the strength of the content itself, this may sound a bit silly, but this is also a case where the physical book is really gorgeous. I think the cover is perfect and the memoir is divided into sections separated by text in a style similar to the cover, including tiny butterflies.

Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War was my first experience with author Deb Olin Unferth, who has previously published a collection of short stories, Minor Robberies, as well as a novel, Vacation, however I have already purchased her previous works and am extremely excited to read them as she is clearly a rising literary star. Unferth has an incredible ability to be concise and clever, the book itself is a fairly short read, but what sticks with the reader afterwards is the power of the writing. In Revolution, Unferth reflects on her experiences attempting to join Central America revolutions with an observant and humorous eye while writing about universal emotions and the distances we will go, literally, for love. 

Release Date: February 1st, 2011
Pages: 224
: 4.5/5

Source: Publicist
Buy the Book

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments make my day!