The Volunteer by Salvatore Scibona - review by David Annand

David Annand

Marine Life

The Volunteer

By

Jonathan Cape 432pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

There’s a doubleness to the act of volunteering. On the face of it, by freely offering to do something you’re acting as an autonomous agent. But in practice, the act of volunteering is very often a response to something beyond your control: the poverty that necessitates charity, the global conflicts that demand recruits, and so on. To volunteer is to act in a way that both affirms the self and also confirms its insignificance.

So it is with the characters of Salvatore Scibona’s brilliant second novel, tempest-tossed people who stumble about the edges of American life trying vainly to assert some sense of order over their lives as they bounce from one bad break to another. At the centre of it all

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