A Lover of Books

‘Volunteer’ by Gary McElkerney

VolunteerWrite Path NI Limited were looking for people to review ‘Volunteer’.  They are holding a fundraising night on the 15th March 2014 during which they will also be celebrating the publication of this novel.

Born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Gary McElkerney has done voluntary first aid work in Nicaragua, Hungary and Ethiopia.  The experiences Gary had gave him the idea for this book.

It is summer and Chris Johnston, a 22 year old university student from Belfast, has signed up to lead a team of young volunteers travelling to Ethiopia where they are to help build houses for charity.  Whilst there, Chris has an argument with the leaders.  He doesn’t feel appreciated and when a seemingly better opportunity comes up he abandons the team and travels north to work for Medical Aid Africa in a clinic.  He then agrees to join their make-shift ambulance crew in a bid to find the excitement and adventure he’s been searching for on the frontline.  However, he finds that life is very different off the beaten track.

Consumed by fear, Chris is terrified especially when he experiences the true horrors of war.  His dreams of heroism and adventure turn into a nightmare and he feels as if he has failed.  Chris returns home with the mental scars of war which will take some time to heal.

When I first started reading this novel I didn’t know if I would really enjoy it, but I was soon hooked.  Although ‘Volunteer’ has been written as fiction, it is actually based on what Gary went through and you would be forgiven for mistaking this as a non-fiction book.  The writing throughout was so good and the descriptions were excellent.

‘Volunteer’ tells it how it really is.  Though there is some humour, this is a heartbreaking story which will shock you.  It paints a good picture of what life is really like in Ethiopia and the terror innocent people have to go through.  Even children get caught in the crossfire, something which really shouldn’t be happening in this day and age.  A powerful read, ‘Volunteer’ is a stark reminder of how fortunate we really are.

I give this book 5 out of 5.


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