Plot: Wald offers valuable information in an entertaining way, illuminating the highs and lows of his service in the Peace Corps—and driving home the need for community and advocacy. His storytelling melds cultural differences while subtly teaching lessons for future Peace Corps volunteers.
Prose: Wald’s writing style brings the environment to vibrant life with rich descriptors and crisp prose.
Originality: Offering a distinctive take on the role of a Peace Corps volunteer, Wald highlights the ideals alongside the realities of his time serving in Panama. The book’s style is ultimately an interesting mix of travelogue and education.
Character/Execution: Wald delivers a sound exploration of Peace Corps efforts against the backdrop of Panama, but he goes a step further with recommendations for sustainability and systemic change. Readers will appreciate the practical guidance and insightful pointers.
Date Submitted: December 09, 2022
Wald’s story is a fascinating look into a particular Peace Corps experience: that of a later-in-life volunteer. He still has the admirable flexibility required to succeed in a cross-cultural volunteer exchange (summarized in his motto: “It’s Amazing What You Can Get Used To” or IAWYGUT) and yet brings more real-world expertise to the challenges of volunteer life. Why Didn’t You Call includes lovely photos and maps, which help embed the reader in the story, and Wald closes the book with clear, specific, actionable advice for people considering the Peace Corps, particularly those considering it later in life, as well as for the institution itself to improve its processes and outcomes.
While some of Wald’s complaints about Panamanian culture—such as a disinclination toward American-style punctuality— may strike readers as something the Peace Corps could anticipate and adjust for, they reflect the difficulty of working across different cultural expectations. Wald’s recommendations, and the memoir overall, will be worthwhile, illuminating reading for anyone interested in opening their minds to work, live, or volunteer across cultures.
Takeaway: This Peace Corps memoir will fascinate readers interested in cross-cultural living and working.
Great for fans of: Mike Tidwel’s The Ponds of Kalambyi George Packer’s The Village of Waiting.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A