Kimberly H. (Stamford, CT)
A Tale in Rwanda
I appreciate that this is a first novel for this author and the premise and basis of the story is more than valid. The writing was average and this would be a great book for high school students trying to understand what happened in Rwanda in 1994.
An easy read, divided into sections and characters, where the main character Angel, reaches out to neighbors, friends and strangers, by baking cakes for special occasions in her new world. She tries to create hope in a land that was torn asunder by horrific circumstances.
I felt the characters were underdeveloped and that she tried to pack a lot in, but overall a good summer read.
Robert G. (Takoma Park, MD)
A Cake To Make It Better
One might expect a story set in post-genocide Rwanda, with the spread of HIV/AIDS continuing to cut through those in the prime of life, to be weighted with misery. "Baking Cakes In Kigali" hardly ignores those realities but they are blended in with the other human issues of day-to-day life in this sweet, light tale.
Angel Tungaraza has a cake for every dilemma brought her way, and every one goes away from her with a slice of hope. The string of stories that make up this novel are engaging, though they have somewhat repetitive story arcs and similar tidy resolutions. It all rides along on polite and correct conversations that give this the feel of a thoughtful and inventive children's book.
There will be inevitable comparisons to the lady detective Precious Ramotswe of Alexander McCall Smith. Both feature a profoundly decent woman wrestling with the heartaches of life and the foibles of human nature. Both place an emphasis on the positive and the heart warming, and let us see that good can triumph in the end, at least in the small battles.
There is one particularly chilling turn when Angel welcomes in an Army captain as a prospective customer, only to find that this former boy soldier has a hollow moral center and some bad intentions. I expected the story to take a turn into deeper and darker conflict. But the threat the soldier poses quickly fades, and he is last heard from as the crux of an amusing plot twist involving two other side characters.
Linda K. (Belvidere, IL)
There's More To A Cake Than Flour And Water
The main character, Angel, bakes cakes. Her cakes are far more than an edible pastry. Each cake she bakes celebrates an occasion that is laced with sadness and despair, as no one has gone untouched by the horrors of genocide Rwanda lived through. If that was not enough, Africa has been haunted further by the impact of the AIDS epidemic. Despite these conditions, Angel brings hope and healing with every cake she bakes. This is a book that cannot be put aside. It begs to be read, just as Angels cakes beg to be eaten. Ill be looking forward to the next slice Gail Parkin cooks up!
Kim B. (Arlington, TX)
This book surprised me; although I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting. It is a warm and witty story juxtaposed against an insight on HIV/AIDS in Rwanda and the lingering effects of genocide. Its a enjoyable book that opens the readers eyes to appreciate the gifts of life. Very well written. Recommend.
Laura A. (Jeremiah, Kentucky)
I found "Baking Cakes in Kigali" by Gaile Parkin to be an uplifting story. Dealing with the subject matter of Rwanda it could have been a very depressing book but reminded us all that even in the midst of tragedy, there is life and celebration of life. I really liked this book and the characters within it. I found Gaile Parkin to be a wonderful writer. I think this would be an excellent book club choice.
Katherine W. (El Sobrante, CA)
When it comes to writing books Gaile Parkin is a very impressive Somebody!
"Baking Cakes in Kigale", a first novel by Gaile Parkin, Takes place in Rwanda some years after the civil war. Each chapter is titled after an occasion for which the main character, Angel Tungaraza, has been hired to bake one of her famous cakes. In getting to know the people for whom she is creating her confectionery masterpieces, Angel learns the stories of their lives, some tragic, some full of humor. This is one of those special books that keeps you fully engaged while at the same time infusing the story with an important political message. It bears witness to the terrible tragedies of AIDS, genocide, malaria, poverty and government corruption, and all the while manages to be heartwarming and full of joie de vivre.
Eileen L. (Danvers, MA)
Draws you in and does not let go
Baking Cakes in Kigali is a long winding road of a book. Centered around Angel, a baker of specialty cakes, you are immediately drawn into her world. Her strength, her sense of family, and her willingness to listen and learn endear her to the reader almost immediately. While the hardship in her life, and lives of those around her, is obvious, you get the sense that life, to Angel, holds endless possibility and undiscovered joy. This book is truly a journey, and one well worth taking. You really just want it to go on and on.