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The Volunteer

A Novel
Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini
Length: 13 hrs and 43 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"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.

©2019 Salvatore Scibona (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Like the late Robert Stone, Scibona exhibits a command of language and demonstrates a knack for dramatizing the tidal pull of history on individual destiny.  The novel accrues real power as its vividly imagined characters try to make sense of an often senseless world. This is a bold, rewarding novel.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Scibona’s lyrical yet muscular prose anchors this majestic work as he probes deep philosophical questions about family, identity, belonging, and sacrifice.... Scibona’s greatest strength is his ability to inhabit each character with profound psychological depth to explore their guilt, doubt, and humanity. This novel rewards close reading and deserves wide readership.” (Booklist

“Scibona delivers an enigmatic story that hinges on secrecy and uncertainty.... As with his first novel, with which it has thematic similarities, Scibona's story takes in a broad sweep of time, looking into the future to foresee an end that may not be so terrible but that is just as certain...the narrative is marked by distinctive lyricism and striking images...original and memorable.” (Kirkus Reviews

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Well Worth a Decade Long Wait!

Salvatore Scibona's characters know the intimacy of despair and the gnawing hollowness of desperation. They know that no matter how many surround us in life, we are still mostly alone and then completely alone at death. Yet they still have the courage to dream and grasp at life and renewal. I also enjoy Scibona's sense of time, history and social mores. Plus, he also has a great ability to show the hidden but meaningful connections between the people who inhabit his wonderful books. "The Volunteer" was well worth the decade + wait since his masterful "The. End" was published!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful