Baking Cakes in Kigali: Book summary and reviews of Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Baking Cakes in Kigali

By Gaile Parkin

Baking Cakes in Kigali

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Book Summary

Baking Cakes in Kigali is a tale in fourteen confections, and behind each cake lies a story. As baker Angel Tungaraza busies herself with her customers' orders, we learn about their lives: Ken Akimoto — with his penchant for partying, her best client — and Bosco, his lovesick driver; Dr. Rejoice, without whom she'd never cope with the hot flashes that send her delving into her brassiere for a handkerchief so often these days; Odile, an AIDS worker whose love life Angel has taken a keen interest in; and not forgetting young Leocadie, Modeste, and their baby boy, Beckham.

Angel works her magic, solving problems for all around her; and in turn, they help her lay her own demons to rest: perhaps she can finally face the truth about the loss of her own son and daughter, and achieve a sense of peace.

Hauntingly charming, funny, and involving, Baking Cakes in Kigali , set in Rwanda, is a novel about the real meaning of reconciliation - about how, in the aftermath of tragedy, life goes on and people still manage to find reasons to celebrate.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"With a lightness of touch, Gaile Parkin's Baking Cakes in Kigali deftly uncovers the joys (and there are many) and sorrows of the survivors. Fans of Precious Ramotswe from Alexander McCall Smith's Number One Ladies Detective Agency will adore this too." - The Daily Mail (U.K.)

"An irresistible story of laughter and hope .... Baking Cakes in Kigali is a charming and a beautifully written novel of life in a country recovering from terrible horrors." - The Bookseller (U.K.)

"Fluent and deeply moving, especially in its portrayal of women survivors." - The Independent (U.K.)

"Angel ... is the novel's towering achievement—along with the sense Parkin creates of a country riven by its past yet seeking repair.... Baking Cakes in Kigali makes you feel better about the world." - The Scotsman

"Born and raised in Zambia, Parkin offers a fascinating personal glimpse into a culture unfamiliar to most Americans, but better editing could have transformed her slightly stilted effort into a book to remember." - Kirkus Reviews

"In Parkin's eagerness to introduce a rainbow of cultures and personalities, she crowds her enjoyable but terminally dedicated heroine, forcing Angel to take a saccharine supporting role in her own story..." - Publishers Weekly

"This is a good choice for readers interested in the political and social life of African countries and fans of Alexander McCall Smith's "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series." - School Library Journal (Adult Books for High School Students)

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Louise J
Totally Charming!
This was a funny, sad, heartwarming read. Angel Tungaraza bakes and decorates the most beautiful cakes. As each of her customers come to see her to ask her to bake one, she hands them her portfolio to look at while she makes them tea. Her best client is Ken Akimoto who regularly holds parties and loves karaoke and the people of the apartment building are usually invited, but those that aren’t never complain about the noise because at one time or another they have been invited.

Each person that comes to see Angel has some sort of problem that she helps them solve. She seems to have an air about her that makes her easily approachable and easy to talk to, however, at the same time, she comes to accept, in her own way, the deaths of both her own daughter and son.

Even amongst all these problems, terrible illnesses and death, it shows us that life does go on and people still find reasons to celebrate regardless of the hardships they’ve faced.

I would recommend this book to others.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Kathy B.
Baking cakes in Rwanda but so much more...
In a manner much like Alexander McCall Smith, Gaile Parkin gives vignettes of life in Africa (Rwanda). Angel bakes cakes to sell from her home; the stories revolve around her customers and deal with AIDS, frustrations with societal moires, marital conflict, and women's issues. The stories are compelling and the advice which Angel gives is always sound. Do not miss this wonderful slice of life in Rwanda. It shows warmth and hope in the context of the remnants of the terrible genocide of 1994. It left me smiling through my tears.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by 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.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Kim B. (Arlington, TX)
Pleasant surprise
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.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by 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.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by 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 Angel’s cakes beg to be eaten. I’ll be looking forward to the next “slice” Gail Parkin cooks up!

...14 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Gaile Parkin Author Biography

Gaile Parkin was born and raised in Zambia, and studied at universities in South Africa and England. She has lived in many different parts of Africa, including Rwanda, where Baking Cakes in Kigali is set. She is currently a freelance consultant in the fields of education, gender, and HIV/AIDS.

Her second novel, When Hoopoes Go To Heaven", will publish in the UK in Feb 2012.

Author Interview

Other books by Gaile Parkin at BookBrowse
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