A celebration of ground-level reporting and getting a worm's eye view of crisis zones. Even as a biography, this is Kaplan's most personal book to date, and through Gersony's story, he makes a poignant case for how American diplomacy should be conducted — with a clear eye toward facts on the ground — at a time when diplomacy is too often being left behind.
It’s an unexpected and entirely winning biography of Gersony, who worked as a U.S. foreign policy consultant during the 'golden age' of American diplomacy ... Kaplan’s book follows Gersony all through the rolling ambit of his world travels, and thanks to Kaplan’s own considerable narrative gifts, those journeys are as vivid and compelling as any travelogue ... Throughout it all, Gersony is surrounded not only by the indifferent waste and violent cruelty of the modern world but also, thankfully, by other good-hearted people who share what we could grandiloquently refer to as his vision of a kinder and more just society. Whether the setting is Mozambique, Chad, Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, El Salvador, or Nepal, Kaplan’s writing is unfailingly vivid. The book’s moral tone is equally vivid, although far more iconoclastic when read in the harsh squinty-cynical light of the early 21st century ... reading Kaplan’s account of smart, quiet, unsung heroism, readers will come away hopeful. If Bob Gersony can spend a life going out and really listening to other people, so can we.
... one of the best accounts examining American humanitarian pursuits over the past 50 years ... meticulously researched narrative ... Kaplan takes readers into the hardest-hit spots on the planet, creating a portrait that suggests America’s positive humanitarian role in the world is limited. But the book misses some other successes of the past 40 years ... But these are minor quibbles with what is an otherwise wonderful account of American efforts around the globe. With still greater challenges on the horizon, we will need to find and empower more people like Bob Gersony — both idealistic and pragmatic — who can help make the world a more secure place.