Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Report: Running the Rift

Naomi Benaron's well researched and beautifully written book was impossible to put down.  Following the story of a young boy through school, running, and genocide in his native Rwanda, Running the Rift is a great book.

As a student of international politics and the West's abject failures during the Rwandan Genocide, as well as a runner, I found this book to be a painfully perfect historical fiction.  While you know what happens, and if you don't you need to do some research, you can't stop reading and must know what happens next.  The interpersonal relationships are complex, real, and haunting.  The political realities of a neo-colonial Africa are presented without pretense, even when presented by a white American woman.

Benaron explores the real impact and long term effects of European definitions and divisions on neighbors and families. The nationalism felt by all was overpowered by myth that was eternal even if it was perpetuated by European colonialists.  The powerlessness of moderation over extremists was defeating.  Only the extremist tendencies of Jean Patrick -- which were positive in nature, but extreme all the same -- gave a reader hope for the future.

Benaron's inclusion of a degree of fiction in the form of love blunted the harsh realities of the early 1990s in this small central African nation.  The love story, which honestly didn't seem very believable, enabled me to read this book before bed without nightmares.  However, it was the many stories lines of humanity, which remind you that while reading this horrific history, people tend to be good, even in times of extreme evil.

5 out of 5 stars. 

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