Monday, May 30, 2011

Strength in What Remains

by and narrated by Tracy Kidder
Westminster, Md. : Books on Tape, p2009.

Deogracias came to New York in the 1990s with little money and no English. He was from Burundi, a country in Africa near Rwanda, and had run for his life during the genocide between Hutus and Tutsis in both countries. Kidder recounts a dual narrative of how Deo survives in New York, and how he survives and escapes the uprising in his home country.

I hadn't planned on reading this book, exactly. Strictly speaking, Home Town is the only book by Tracy Kidder currently on my TBR list, though his name has been on my radar as a good nonfiction author ever since I read Mountains Beyond Mountains. So when I saw this on my library's audiobook shelves, I decided to give it a listen on my commute. The book is read by the author, which made especially those parts in which Kidder is in the narrative feel more immediate, but also meant he didn't always have the delivery an actor or reader might, so it took a little getting used to. Deo's story is an incredible story of survival - not just physically, but also how he mentally survived what must have been absolute horror to witness. I couldn't help but cringe at some of the experiences he had in Burundi, Rwanda, and New York. I sometimes thought that Kidder became somewhat repetitive in the second half of the book, repeating stories that he'd already told. (This feeling was only helped by a quirk of the CDs and my car - there was no "end of Disc 1" or introduction with each CD, so when my car stereo started a CD over from the beginning automatically, I sometimes didn't catch it until several minutes into the first track.) This was a challenging read that has given me much food for thought and a definite need to learn more about Burundi and Rwanda in the 1990s.

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