Greater Lehigh Valley

Writers Group

3650 Nazareth Pike, PMB #136
  Bethlehem, PA 18020-1115 














John Kennedy

Novel: Last Lorry to Mbordo: Misadventures in Nation Building

John wrote Last Lorry based on his experiences as a teacher in West Africa and graduate student at the University of Illinois. He was a Peace Corps volunteer math teacher in a village in Ghana for three years (1965-68), a secondary school teacher in the Washington DC city school system (1968-70), a junior high school teacher in Charlotte, NC (1970-71), and a teacher and administrator in the Antilles Consolidated School System, Puerto Rico (1975-2000).

However, his time at the University of Illinois as a graduate student studying Comparative Education (1971-75) was the catalyst for creating Last Lorry. His major interest was the effect of education on economic development in English speaking West Africa.

Last Lorry is a different book for each reader. Reviewers and readers provide the best descriptions of John’s novel:

"In Last Lorry to Mbordo John Kennedy takes us to West Africa in a meeting of two cultures and two worlds. In an intense and entertaining novel the author portrays the work done by dedicated volunteers who try to bridge the gap between different cultures. Full of details, this novel shows the best (and worst) of our people across cultural, ethnic and political worlds. The reader feels transported to the town of Mbordo in the West African nation of Sakra."

Dr. Norman Maldonado, President Emeritus of the University of Puerto Rico

“The first half of the novel, rendered with knowledgeable and vivid detail by the author, though inspired by events in Ghana almost fifty years ago, fronts issues that the United States has experienced recently in the Balkans and the Near East, where attempts at ‘nation-building’ have been threatened by tribal antagonisms of centuries-long standing. The attempts of Westerners to introduce educational and agricultural reforms, often in ignorance of (or with indifference to) cultural and climatic conditions in Africa, hint at the futility of Peace Corps aims, but the tribal rivalries and internecine wars present an even more formidable obstacle to the ‘peace’ that the corps established by President John F. Kennedy’s administration was designed to promote. And the last half of the novel, recounting the tragic consequences of warfare and the tragic struggle of the Peace Corps teachers and their African colleagues to escape a horrible fate, brings home to the reader the difficulties, even dangers, of introducing Western systems into non-Western countries.

“That Mr. Kennedy is a novice writer of fiction is obvious, but problems of aesthetics and craftsmanship are far outweighed by the vividness and acuteness of his vision. This is a book very hard to set aside once the reader gets past the first chapter, for the events that make up a many-stranded plot are fascinating to anyone unfamiliar with the details of African life as it struggles to come to terms with Western culture.”

Dr. John Seelye, Professor of English, University of Florida at Gainesville,
for the Friends of Ghana Newsletter

“John Kennedy uses the novel form effectively as a technique to elaborate the joys and absurdities of the volunteer experience, and to provide a ground level context to his reflections on the nation building process. I found myself caught up in the stories which support the working out of Kennedy’s conclusions.

“The novel’s deft elaboration of the daily life of its characters will for returned volunteers spark the recollection of events now thirty plus years past. Although Kennedy claims that Sakra and the characters, situations, incidents and institutions are fictional, they clearly draw on his experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana in the sixties. And while Sakra could be Ghana, the war that envelops the volunteers during the second half of the novel bears more than a passing resemblance to the Biafran conflict.

“The perils of Iraq nation building now focuses our collective mind, and religious and cultural conflict still brews in Nigeria. Both Nigeria’s and Iraq’s situations arise at least in part out of the colonial decision to throw together disparate, antagonistic tribal groups, without, when the colonies became independent countries, effective pre-independence smoothing of tribal jealousies.”

David Strain, Nigerian Peace Corp Volunteer (63–66)
in the Friends of Nigeria Newsletter – Winter 2004

“The coinciding of this book’s publishing with the Dayton Daily News’ series on Peace Corps safety surely will bring the ultimate security lapses of Mr. Kennedy’s PC/Sakra to many readers’ attention. RPCVs, particularly from Africa, will find much familiar in the customs and trials of daily life. Perhaps more interesting than either of these themes, however, figures the emotional evolution of some of the male Volunteers. Consciously models of cultural sensitivity, they nevertheless run up against the unanticipated independent perspectives of their respective lovers.”

Brian D. Stettner, CORVA NEWS

“I work in many nursing homes in the surrounding Franklin County area and encounter many people who work there who are from West Africa. You have given me a new perspective in relating to them, and their perhaps plight of divisions, prejudices and in being away from the land, their tribe, their home.”

Tina Thonnings Gratitude, Columbus, Ohio

“I completed your book and enjoyed it very much. I am not a qualified literary critic (although I was an English major many years ago at UNC), but I found it to be very well crafted. You lull the reader into the peaceful routine setting and culture of the 1960s African Peace Corp experience and gradually build the intensity into wartime and personal drama. I couldn't put the book down for the last 100 pages or so.”

Tom Cathey, Florida

"A gripping must read book for anyone contemplating life in a different culture. A true eye-opener which helps us to examine our own ideas. 'The Last Lorry' takes us for a non-stop ride through another world."

Joanne Marti, Information Technology Manager, Puerto Rico

"Engrossing. An engaging adventure and examination of culture, history, and the complexity of personal motivation as seen through the eyes of a fellow Mathematics teacher. A surprising look at where our best intentions can lead us."

Marjorie M. Barreto, Mathematics Instructor, Puerto Rico

“Thank you for your book, I enjoyed it immensely. I realized that any novel with a title of ‘last’ followed by a form of transportation to (or from) some destination will involve some grim scenes. So I truly enjoyed the first three chapters which had me laughing right out loud. Then there were parts which left me close to tears, and few times I put it aside to delay reading about the violence I knew was coming. Great job.”

Russ Hodges, Cullowhee, NC

“This book is like being there.”

Old Bill, Boonville, NC


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