"Thrilling… Scibona has built a masterpiece." – The New York Times Book Review
"All of it — all of it — is just so ridiculously beautiful." – Jason Sheehan, NPR.org
"The rewards are enormous. This is a spectacular work of fiction." – San Francisco Chronicle
A long-awaited new novel from a National Book Award Finalist, the epic story of a restless young man who is captured during the Vietnam War and pressed into service for a clandestine branch of the United States government
A small boy speaking an unknown language is abandoned by his father at an international airport, with only the clothes on his back and a handful of money jammed in the pocket of his coat. So begins The Volunteer. But in order to understand this heartbreaking and indefensible decision, the story must return to the moment, decades earlier, when a young man named Vollie Frade, almost on a whim, enlists in the United States Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam. Breaking definitively from his rural Iowan parents, Vollie puts in motion an unimaginable chain of events, which sees him go to work for insidious people with intentions he cannot yet grasp. From the Cambodian jungle, to a flophouse in Queens, to a commune in New Mexico, Vollie's path traces a secret history of life on the margins of America, culminating with an inevitable and terrible reckoning.
With intense feeling, uncommon erudition, and bracing style, Scibona offers at once a pensive exploration of how we are capable of both inventing and discovering our true families and a lacerating interrogation of institutional power at its most commanding and terrifying. An odyssey of loss and salvation ranging across four generations of fathers and sons, The Volunteer is a triumph in the grandest traditions of American storytelling.
Tedious and exhausting to read
Having read and heard many glowing reviews and accolades, I was excited to recommend for my reading group. The consensus....a resounding thumbs down by all. Most didn’t even finish (I only did to find out what happened to the boy). Only two points in the book were interesting, the opening and when Vollie is captured. The rest was a tiresome and depressing slog.
The best character was Mavis...the dog