Court Street Press

You Never Try, You Never Know: Six Years in Liberia

by Ruth Jacobson

In 1971, Ruth and Harold Jacobson—a registered nurse and a maintenance mechanic in their 50s—joined the Peace Corps and went to Liberia.

During their three years as volunteers and three more years as staff at a mission hospital, Ruth chronicled their experiences in weekly letters to her mother and family. From the mundane to hair-raising, she described the details of their life and work, the events of the times, the everyday life in the villages where they lived, and people's customs.

This compilation of Ruth's letters offers a portrait of the Liberian people in pre-war (and pre-cell phone) Liberia. In the end, the letters also paint a portrait of Ruth herself, and reveal a strength of character and approach to life instructive to anyone who is thinking about or planning to work in a developing country.

Read some letter excerpts

You Never Try, You Never Know is on Facebook. See videos of Ruth speaking in May 2011 about her experiences in Liberia.

Review of Ruth Jacobson’s memoir of Liberia

In this extensive review, Geraldine Kennedy, describes the book in detail and concludes:

" You Never Try, You Never Know is an intelligent record of the Jacobsons’ time in Liberia. While it never directly asks, their six-year saga of clinics, menus, caring friendships, washed out roads, bush school, joyful work, devil dancers, secret societies, white chickens, and dying babies doesn’t let us escape the deeper questions of the relationship between the first and third worlds and especially what that means for the Peace Corps. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with that issue."

Sending letters back home to America

In his review, Mike Wold comments:

"This collection of letters from a middle-aged Peace Corps volunteer and mission worker is less of a literary read and more of a primary source and fascinating insight into the life of American volunteers abroad.

"...  a very enjoyable read - I highly recommend it!" Laurie Hamption

"Openness. Honesty. Integrity. Warm love and understanding of humankind, especially African. All these SHINE in this book.... We recommend this book to anyone interested in serving in any capacity overseas or in a new and different culture." Beth and Jordan Holtam

..."I'm not a big fan of nonfiction, but this book kept me completely interested all the way through. Ruth's letters create a strong image of Peace Corps life in Liberia at that time." Meredith Regal

You Never Try, You Never Know: Six Years in Liberia cover thumbnail
  • Perfect bound
  • soft cover
  • 6 x 9, 402 pages
  • 30 photos

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