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d. goddard

I read your essay because I was looking for a murder mystery. However, because I was Peace Corps Volunteer (Tonga 17) and I was there I am also looking for justice. Most of us are offended and more than disappointed that the promise was broken... "he will be institutionilized for life." Justice must be served. You are a gifted writer. You can help.

Bob Forbes

I'd like to add to Mr. Goddard's comments above (hi Dave) to thank you for your thoughtful review of American Taboo and your well-described emotional reactions to the book. Having worked with the author, I know those are the kinds emotions he felt himself while uncovering the story and tried to elicit among his readers... succeeding in some cases as your remarks show. Mr. Goddard and I were both new PCVs in training in Tonga in 1976 when the murder happened. That tragedy and its aftershocks haunted us and tainted our service to Tonga for the full 2+ years we were there, through late 1978 when we were both staff trainers of new PCVS in Tonga Group 22, trying to start a fresher and better experience in Tonga for them than it was for us. I'm confident that our efforts (and those of many others who came to Tonga before and after) have been largely fruitful, for the Tonga Peace Corps program has made a positive difference in the lives of many Tongans and American RPCVs over its nearly 40-year history through today. At the same time, for those of us who witnessed the tragedy of that murder, then observed the travesties of the Peace Corps administration and US government as image-preserving became much more important to them than doing the right thing, we'll never really get over the shock and shame. Thanks again for your insight and honesty.


Hi, I'm currently reading the book now and although I've never been a Peace Corp person, I did date one... and three months into what I considered a perfect relationship... he disappeared. Moved out apparently in one night. Quit his job. Cleaned out the whole lot. Vanished. It's been 11 years since I last saw him but I do remember him talking and missing his PC friends and the life style he became adjusted to in Thailand... I am reading this book really to understand the Peace Corps and also because I am a huge true crime/thriller type of a reader.... thanks for the gripping review.

Lousa Reed

Thank you for the review of American Taboo. For me the book was not a slow read. I was in Tonga 23 and I taught at Tupou H.S. Kalapoli Paongo was my principal and Bill McIntyre was the assistant principal. Many of the people in the book I know. Deborah Gardner was from my hometown. Reading this book brought a lot back-it was the way I found out what we had only known as vague tales, it is the best understanding I have of why we didn't hear the full story from those who knew. It brought to life the smell of the 'umu fires on saturday night, the sound of mulberry bark being pounded into tapa cloth in the afternoons, the sight of the moonlight shining off of crushed coral roads and the Southern Cross rising beyond the screen of the movie theater at night. I couldn't give you a dispassionate review of this book if my life depended on it.


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