I have mentioned my friend Kenny Budd and the book he recently published. I was honored to read through an early draft as he wrote, and just finished reading the final product. It was a wonderful experience reading it all the way through; I enjoyed reading the sections as he wrote it, but really love seeing how it all came together.
Here is a review I posted on Amazon. I highly recommend it!
The Voluntourist is a touching tale of honest self-examination. Memoir can be difficult, because while our lives are important to us, it is challenging to write about our lives in a way that will connect with others. Will readers be able to relate to the experiences I’ve had? Will they care?
In this case, the answer is yes. Ken shares very openly about his life, his struggles, his weaknesses, doubts and questions…he tells beautiful stories of his attempts to make a difference in the world. While he experiences things that most others never do, he shares those experiences in a way that draws the reader in.
His imagery is simple—in a good way. No excessive descriptions, just enough to help the reader get a good feel for the places and people he encounters. The focus is on the people with who Ken works, and how they touch his life.
We feel Ken's joy in the relationships he builds as he travels the world, doing volunteer work in Costa Rica, New Orleans, China, Ecuador, Palestine, and Kenya. We also feel his heartbreak over losing his father, and over his growing understanding and acceptance that he will likely never be a father.
The power of the book is Ken’s journey to see life through the lens of his father, who died too young. Examining his father’s life, and his own, leads him on a spiritual journey that is uniquely his, yet one that almost anyone can relate to.
There are many beautiful scenes involving Ken and the children he works with and comes to love. Especially powerful is an awkward yet beautifully touching story of how Ken, who does not typically pray, goes into a church and prays for the people in his life.
Ken doesn’t try too hard to teach any lessons. By sharing simply about what he has learned, Ken leads the reader to do his/her own self-examination.
The Voluntourist is a very honest book. Ken shares openly about his life and relationships. Like life, there are times when Ken’s story is deeply profound, emotional, gut wrenching… other times when it is clever and very funny.
By sharing stories of adventures in several countries and continents, Ken shows how our world is both big and small; big because of the size and diversity; small because the truth is people are people, and wherever they are, they all strive to find purpose in life.
Ken learns, and then shares with the reader, that life is really about the people in our lives, how they touch us, and how we touch them.
And in the end, The Voluntourist is really a love story—about the love Ken had with his father, the love he has family and friends, the love he has with the children he encounters all over the world, and most of all, the love between Ken and his wife, Julie, a love that grows and matures and overcomes challenges, and grows stronger through Ken’s journey around the world and into himself.