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Reviewed by Alysia George

Finding one’s purpose in life is sometimes an endeavor that takes an entire lifetime. But Rye Barcott, author the memoir It Happened On the Way to War, is an incredible person who found his purpose at a very young age. While still a teenager, Barcott knew that Africa held a special place in his heart, and at the same time he was also driven to serve in the United States Marines. In his book, he demonstrates how striving for peace in Kenya and training for and fighting in a war are not as mutually exclusive as they may seem.

A trip to Africa with his parents during high school spurred an immediate and intense interest for Barcott. The son of a Vietnam veteran, he also felt passionately, from the time he was a teenager, that he should join the United States Marines and fight for his country. While an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina and in ROTC training, the remarkably driven Barcott co-founded the nonprofit organization Carolina for Kibera. His mission was to motivate local residents of Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa, to work toward peace and a better life for themselves. He worked hard on his studies in the U.S., while visiting Kibera as often as possible and helping to manage the organization from overseas.

After his college graduation, the time came for Barcott to fulfill his military obligations. He was stationed in war time Iraq, among other places, and continued his efforts in Kenya while focusing his attention on being an exemplary soldier. While some might consider the life of a soldier to contradict that of a peace advocate, Barcott thought of himself in his military role as helping to fight for peace.

It Happened On the Way to War is an inspiring memoir. I found myself in awe of Barcott and his hard work, determination, and dedication. I loved the book, with one exception. At times there are descriptive military scenes that are just beyond my imagination and interest. This may not be a downside for some readers, but I found myself slightly bored during these parts. However, they played a small role overall in my impression of the book.

Rating: 5/5

Alysia lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and four children. She writes about family life, parenting issues, and other things of interest to her on her blog, Michigal.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bloomsbury USA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.