Running the Rift
to be released January 17, 2012
360 pages (in the ARC that I read, which Dawn so kindly passed on to me)
Published by Algonquin
Note: This book won the Bellwether Prize, which is awarded biennially by Barbara Kingsolver for an unpublished novel that addresses issues of social justice. Previous winners include The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow (which I will be reading soon, thanks to Kari) and Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (which I have already read and adore). I didn’t know unpublished novels could even win prizes.
Another note: This won’t be published until January, and I should probably wait until then to post this, but good grief, that’s next year! I don’t want to have a post hanging out there in scheduled-to-be-published land for 2 months!
Running the Rift follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Rwandan boy, from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life, a ten-year span in which his country is undone by the Hutu-Tutsi tensions. Born a Tutsi, he is thrust into a world where it’s impossible to stay apolitical—where the man who used to sell you gifts for your family now spews hatred, where the girl who flirted with you in the lunchroom refuses to look at you, where your Hutu coach is secretly training the very soldiers who will hunt down your family.
Yet in an environment increasingly restrictive for the Tutsi, he holds fast to his dream of becoming Rwanda’s first Olympic medal contender in track, a feat he believes might deliver him and his people from this violence. When the killing begins, Jean Patrick is forced to flee, leaving behind the woman, the family, and the country he loves. Finding them again is the race of his life.
I’ve never read any fiction set in Rwanda. Actually, I’ve never read any non-fiction set in Rwanda, either. Heck, I haven’t even seen the movie Hotel Rwanda. However, I was aware of the Hutu-Tutsi ethnic tensions and the resulting genocide that resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands Rwandans. This book does a fabulous (a weird word to use when talking about a book about genocide) job of bringing a small piece of that terrible time to life.
Jean Patrick tries to keep himself apart from politics and the Hutu-Tutsi divide. All he wants to do is go to school and run in the Olympics. But as the tensions escalate, he finds it very difficult to keep himself apart. Especially when he falls in love with a woman who comes from a very outspoken family. Jean Patrick is certainly no hero…he is willing to hide his identity so that he can run, and he makes some ambiguous moral choices. However, he’s far from a bad guy. I’d say he’s just an ordinary kid forced to do what he’s gotta do to survive.
Anyhoosie. Good book, people…you should check it out when it comes out. Next year.