Reviews of The Mountain School
“Greg’s book is true: it happened, and it depicts Lesotho as it is . . . and I am from Lesotho!” – Rethabile Masilo, on Lesotho.blogspot
“He is brutally honest with himself and his readers and tells us even of things about which he is not proud. He is at times judgmental, open-minded, conflicted, happy, determined, easy-going, and frustrated. He shows us the good and the bad. He shows us that Peace Corps is a full life experience, not just what comes home in letters and gets remembered after you’ve been home for a while. . . I enjoyed and appreciated this book because it brought me right back to those moments during Peace Corps at which I was at my best and at my worst.” – Deidre Swesnik, on Peace Corps Worldwide
“Greg’s words put me at the school, allowed me to see the students’ fraying uniforms, hear the patter of the pigeons, and feel the excitement and the isolation.” – Becky Banton, on Amazon
“Reading Greg’s memoir while living a two hour walk from his old site was pretty bizarre. Some parts of our services have been almost identical. The area’s beautiful weather and our tin roofing’s complete failure to deal with it. That one creepy Chinese shop in Kolo. Students singing Pula Eana beautifully & loudly everywhere at all hours. Visiting Qacha’s Nek as midpoint to Durban. Tsoaing river flash-flooding and stopping kids from getting home after school. Having serial arguments and begging rituals with a dozen villagers. Ministry of Education incompetence. Initiation schools on broken, dramatic Mount Kolo. Students wearing the wrong color pants on Tuesday. Feeling ridiculously pampered on vacation in South African hostels and being mischaracterized by shepherds who know John Cena and getting a guilty rush from condemning all Boers. Very many dialogs in this book, word for word for word. These are all things that were, despite kvetching with my contemporaries, more uniquely mine until I read this. Which is sad in some ways but comforting and communal in other[s].
“But it’s fascinating how some very small deviations between our services have defined our experiences. It’s like a study on identical twins separated at birth. Greg used rock climbing to make daily social rounds so he talked to lots of shepherds, while I get out via my trek to fetch water from the area’s only tap so I’ve talked to bunches of girls and women. His village was nearer to Maseru, which seems like it gave him a strong rural/urban contrast that I haven’t really felt, while mine is slightly nearer to Mafeteng, which incurs a slew of provincial ‘makaota’ music and traditions. And while he had teenaged hostelers around his house constantly, I’ve had a solid infestation of elementary kids from my host family & neighbors, which has comparatively hobbled my Sesotho but made playing games and general daysitting a bigger deal.
“And larger differences give a peek at changes in this seemingly timeless place. I have a little electricity and full internet from towers on Qeme plateau, while Greg had neither. My village shop is also way more expansive and I’ve never cooked the papa & moroho dish that he mostly subsisted on (though I get it for school lunch a lot). And it seems like Peace Corps Lesotho itself has changed a lot since the 2010 rapes and murder.
“Overall, the book was quite helpful and insightful. At first it really screwed with my head- having my distant, strange experiences mirrored in detail in a book written by a guy I’ve never met. But I wish I’d read it earlier in my service. I would’ve been that much more prepared. I’ll give it to my successor, maybe (s)he’ll be wiser. Ultimately, despite our very different immersion levels and conclusive feelings about Basotho culture, Greg and I both feel like we’ve had a successful service. Compared to a lot of other Lesotho volunteers this makes us very fortunate and is a real credit to the Kolo/Tšoeneng area.” – Jesse, on Goodreads
“This book highlights more than just cultural assimilation and learning new language skills, it really examines how your identity and morals can change while fully immersing yourself in a foreign culture.” – Erin Livingston, on Amazon
“Alder is clearly an extremely gifted writer with a clear and vivid style perfect for non-fiction . . . Alder’s characters really come alive, and he is insightful in describing their motivations and placing them in larger contexts.” – Caitlyn Driehorst, on Amazon
“To immerse oneself in another culture is no small thing nor are the lessons shared by a man who has done so. The honesty of this story and the growth of the author and people around him are remarkable.” – Tim J. Pfau, on Amazon
“I’ve read several PCV memoirs now and each one is different. I know everyone’s experiences would be unique but this one is even more so in terms of the approach he took with the time and with the writing. Greg sought to immerse himself in the culture and blend in to the surroundings as much as a white man from California can in a small African nation. I had thought as I read this that he was really isolated from other volunteers because he never mentions seeing others. Turns out from the credits that he did, he just chose not to include any of that in the book. I could appreciate the struggle he experienced with re-entry. This is well written in terms of recording his experiences but also the life of the village and the people of Lesotho.” – Sue, on Goodreads
“As a travel memoir, this book does everything it’s supposed to do: Hooks you in, captures the essence of the place and the people, makes you feel the ups and downs of such an experience, and makes you feel like you were actually there.” – Stefanie Johnson, on Goodreads
“I learned what it was like to live without electricity and running water in a country where the language and customs were very different from middle class life in the USA. I enjoyed the book because Greg wanted to learn the Lesotho ways and life and not try to change the people or the way they lived.” – Mathilda Tege, on Amazon
“I really enjoyed The Mountain School – far more than I expected to! . . . The author’s concise and straightforward style made the book quite readable. I was totally immersed in Greg’s world in Lesotho- one extremely different from my own position as an American citizen lucky enough to have a life of relative privilege. I learned so much about Lesotho- the history and culture, the education and political system, and a little bit of what life is like day-to-day there for the people of that country.” – Emily, on Goodreadsby