Wednesday, May 23, 2007

not sure how to go about this...

We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories From Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch.

I finished reading it last night. I must admit that, in a way, I'd been dreading coming to the end of this book. For the simple reason that I would then have to write a review of it. And I just don't know where to begin.

This book is undoubtedly one of the most powerful books I've ever read. The other night as my husband was heading out to jog, he said, "Enjoy your reading." I answered that "enjoy" just didn't fit this book. It was gut-retching and heart-rending. It was a good thing I wasn't keeping track of tears shed, because I never could have kept up the count.

Before I read this book, I thought I knew a little about the genocide in Rwanda. But it turns out that what I knew about it didn't even begin to scratch the surface. The first page of the book:

Decimation means the killing of every tenth person in a population, and in the spring and early summer of 1994 a program of massacres decimated the Republic of Rwanda. Although the killing was low-tech--performed largely by machete--it was carried out at dazzling speed: of an original population of about seven and a half million, at least eight hundred thousand people were killed in just a hundred days. Rwandans often speak of a million deaths, and they may be right. The dead of Rwanda accumulated at nearly three times the rate of Jewish dead during the Holocaust. It was the most efficient mass killing since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Mr. Gourevitch does an amazing job of relaying the genocide through the eyes of survivors. And he goes well beyond this as well. The heart-breaking story is laid out about all that came before, about what led Rwanda to the genocide of 1994. And the equally heart-breaking story of what came after is exposed. It's not a pretty picture.

I feel totally inadequate in my ability to relate what a truly moving, powerful book this is. As I said earlier, "enjoy" would not be the right word. But I will be forever grateful that I read this book.


Juliann in WA said...

Thanks for the review. Last night I watched a movie called Sometimes in April - also about Rwanda and told from the point of view of survivors. I am going to look for this book at the library, not because it is a topic that I want to read about but because I think I need to be more informed about what has happened in these countries.

Literary Feline said...

I am going to be spending a lot of time in West Africa this next month (not physically, but in the world of books). I will have to add this one to my wish list for future reading. Thank you for a great review.

DebD said...

I know what you mean about having trouble writing reviews. "Good" just doesn't seem to convey it all. You did a good job though! This does indeed sound like a powerful book. I may submit it to my book club for possible selection.