(Reviewed by Julie L. Kessler)
Sometimes you come across a book by a first-time author that wholly by surprise thoroughly transports you to another time and to another place. And the best part is that you are able to go along for an utterly amazing ride possessing neither a plane ticket nor a passport. No groping TSA agents either. Dodging Machetes: How I Survived Forbidden Love, Bad Behavior, and the Peace Corps in Fiji by Will Lutwick is just such a book.
Dodging Machetes recounts the author’s experiences as he embarks on a two-year adventure to Fiji while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer during the tumultuous early 1970’s. However, make no mistake, this is not a simple travel ‘kiss and tell’ story, although there certainly is some kissing and the delightful telling of a fascinating, deeply faceted, multi-cultural, layered story. The beauty of Dodging Machetes is not just that Lutwick tells the story of his experience with literally laugh-out-loud humor, depth, insight and candor, but that he does so with such honesty, transparency and a self-reflection rather rare for the author’s demographic.
Although many of the sub-contextual stories are universal in nature: coming of age, loss, traveling the world, falling in love, fear of war; the circumstances that Lutwick describes as he tells his story are unique. Therein lies one of the richest aspects of this book: the ability of this author to make his story the reader’s story even though the reader may never be a Peace Corps volunteer, never set foot on a Pacific island or never run the risk of being drafted into a senseless foreign war.
You can rest assured that it won’t take long to read this book since you won’t be able to put it down despite raging stomach growls, incessant ringing phones and annoying people vying for your attention. In fact, by the end of Dodging Machetes, you will undoubtedly wish, probably long before the last page, that Lutwick could be your neighbor or your friend.