Book Review: Drive-by Saviours by Chris Benjamin

6 Dec

Drive-by Saviours by Chris BenjaminGenre: Contemporary fiction

Publisher: Fernwood Publishing (Roseway imprint)

Pub date: Sep 2010

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers

This first novel by freelance writer Chris Benjamin is such a great read. Spanning the globe from Canada to Indonesia, it follows the lives of two very different people who come together through a series of strange occurrences.


Mark is a social worker in Canada who is increasingly dissatisfied with his job and life in general. While he became a social worker to help people, he finds he has become demoralised and rather indifferent in his professional and personal life.

Bumi is an Indonesian migrant in Canada who is living there illegally. A brilliant student who was looking at a bright future (although under the authoritarian Suharto regime) Bumi has had to escape from his home in Indonesia, leaving his wife and children behind. Bumi’s obsessive behavior (brought on by OCD) makes him the prime suspect when children in his village start to die without any apparent cause. He is forced to flee his home to escape the persecution brought on by superstition and suspicion.

Mark and Bumi meet on the subway and these very different men forge a connection that changes their lives.


The two characters – Mark and  Bumi – cross paths, become friends after a fashion and this relationship changes the way they think, and what they accept as life.

There are many parallels between these two characters. Both their relationships with their families is rather similar. While they are both well-written characters Bumi’s character is the one that stayed with me.  His situation evokes has such pathos that I found myself continually rooting for him to find a better life and some sense of belonging, happiness and contentment.

Mark, though well-written and completely believable is a difficult character to like, and comes across as whiny. He has all the options and support one could ask for, but seems to choose to do things that don’t give him any pleasure.

Mark is determined to help Bumi any way he can – first with his psychological disorder and then to unite him with his family. This friendship with Bumi also helps Mark reconnect with his  estranged sister once he realises that Bumi and his sister have something in common.

Drive-by Saviours is a unique novel that tells a unique story – it also deals with many important issues like plight of immigrants, OCD, and touches on themes like differences between a collective and individualistic society. The island people, their  folklore, superstitions and indigenous customs are some of the sub-themes. Benjamin also explores how tourism, while helping economically, destroys the things that make a community special and individual.

While Benjamin has taken on many themes and addressed many different issues in  this story, he is a masterful storyteller and keeps it interesting throughout. I’d love to read more from this author.

Recommended read.

Rating: 4*

Find out more about the author Chris Benjamin.

*See my Rating Policy


5 Responses to “Book Review: Drive-by Saviours by Chris Benjamin”

  1. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting December 8, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    This sounds fascinating–I love the clear parallels between the life stories of two such different characters.

    Thanks for the thoughtful review!

    • stargazerpuj December 8, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

      It is a great story. Yes, the similarities and parallels also struck me – because these two people are from entirely different worlds in a way. But the world is a much smaller place than we sometimes think.

  2. Rebecca Glenn December 12, 2010 at 6:13 am #

    Thank you for submitting this review to the Book Review Blog Carnival. Edition #58 will be posted tomorrow on The Book Frog. Don’t forget to check it out!

    • stargazerpuj December 12, 2010 at 11:26 am #

      Thanks, I will definitely check out the edition on your blog tomorrow. Looking forward to it!


  1. Drive-by Saviours wins Salty Ink’s Book Cover Design Award! | FernBlog - December 13, 2010

    […] received some very nice reviews in the “blogosphere” this week. You can read those at and Posted on […]

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