Rainy days are perfect for cuddling up on the couch and digging into a good book. If this rainy weekend has left you with no more books to read or you just want to freshen up your library, look no further!
We have a special rainy day treat for you!
Running The RiftA book review by Deb Long
By Naomi Benaron, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012
Where, might you ask, is Rwanda? Where is the Rift Valley – the valley where human life took form? What are your memories of the Hutu ethnic violence against Tutsi’s and genocide that claimed 800,000 lives in 1994? What would be the appeal of a novel set in Rwanda, beginning in the 1984 and ending after the awful bloodshed of 1994 that chronicles the coming of age and Olympic aspirations of a Tutsi named Jean Patrick Nkuba.
The book written by Naomi Benaron, recipient of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction (created by writer, Barbara Kingsolver) vividly captures the daily rhythms of Jean Patrick’s family; she illustrates a closeness amongst his family members that is admirable and warm; an educated, middle-class family that includes extended family members. She imperceptibly integrates the ethnic tension that subsists beneath the surface of daily life as Jean Patrick gains entrance to Rwanda’s only national university and which is dominated by Hutus. She describes Jean Patrick’s last morning run before leaving for university:“A skinny wedge of moon hovered above the trees. The first breath of dawn hung in the air, just enough to see light by. Jean Patrick stepped carefully, feeling the ground with his bare toes. At the crest of the ridge he stepped and looked across the landscape-his landscape-one last time. Lake Kivu opened below him like a yawn.”
Benaron follows Jean Patrick’s university life and his efforts to earn an Olympic berth. Soon after his first year at school, political tensions color his relationships – with a visiting American professor, his fellow-student, Bea whom he falls in love and her family, moderate Hutus who were equally reviled by militant Hutus. Even his coach, who provides him with running shoes and a cherished track suit embroidered with the Rwandan flag and who pushes him toward running greatness supports the radical Hutu agenda to gain control of Rwanda. Will he protect Jean Patrick when Hutus are exhorted to eradicate all Tutsi’s?
Throughout the book, the author paints a canvas of the Rift Valley and the beauty of the countryside. Juxtaposed against idyllic runs and family gatherings at Lake Kivu, comes the inevitable explosion of violence. As the country descends into chaos, Jean Patrick’s Olympic dreams are dashed and his race becomes one to simply escape the violence, to survive. Benaron’s lyrical writing compels you to slow down for even in the midst of unspeakable horror, the author weaves a thread of believable hope for Jean Patrick and his country.
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…stay tuned for March 28th’s book review