Tracy Kidder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of the bestsellers The Soul of a New Machine, House, and the enduring classic Mountains Beyond Mountains, has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the master of the non-fiction narrative. In this new book, Kidder gives us the superb story of a hero for our time. Strength in What Remains is a wonderfully written, inspiring account of one mans remarkable American journey and of the ordinary people who helped him a brilliant testament to the power of will and of second chances.
Deo arrives in America from Burundi in search of a new life. Having survived a civil war and genocide, plagued by horrific dreams, he lands at JFK airport with two hundred dollars, no English, and no contacts. He ekes out a precarious existence delivering groceries, living in Central Park, and learning English by reading dictionaries in bookstores. Then Deo begins to meet the strangers who will change his life, pointing him eventually in the direction of Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing. Kidder breaks new ground in telling this unforgettable story as he travels with Deo back over a turbulent life in search of meaning and forgiveness.
An extraordinary writer, Tracy Kidder once again shows us what it means to be fully human by telling a story about the heroism inherent in ordinary people, a story about a life based on hope.
This is a smart book for what it does not do. It does not attempt to get inside Deo’s head to guess what he might have been thinking. It does not try to psychoanalyze him once he starts talking about his trauma. It does not overly dramatize this story of extreme suffering and redemption, simply allowing the events to unfold on the page. And it does not attempt to puff out Deo’s story and make it represent more than it does. Kidder takes on the role of a reporter on Deo’s life, but his unusual narrative structure lends the story the grace and depth of a novel. (Reviewed by Amy Reading).
The Washington Post
Kidder by no means tells a seamless story. He lurches recklessly between Africa and New York and from past to present, fragmenting the natural suspense... tells us too little and then too much, glossing over material he knows better than we do and then over-explaining things we know perfectly well. He inserts himself into the narrative and indulges in inane asides. But for all these flaws, the sheer power of Deo's story shines through.
The Washington Post
I wish Mr. Kidder had explored more [of] the demands on Deo—and the complicated relationships with his benefactors—once he became the remarkable genocide survivor. What pressures did Deo feel to go back and help save Burundi after he had already achieved and overcome so much? ...quibbles aside, though, a reader cannot help feeling, by the book's end, a deep admiration for Deo and for those who helped him help himself.
The New York Times
That 63-year-old Tracy Kidder may have just written his finest work — indeed, one of the truly stunning books I’ve read this year — is proof that the secret to memorable nonfiction is so often the writer’s readiness to be surprised.
Kidder uses Deo's experiences to deliver a very personal and harrowing account of the ethnic genocide in East Central Africa.
Starred Review. This profoundly gripping, hopeful and crucial testament is a work of the utmost skill, sympathy and moral clarity."
Terrifying at turns, but tremendously inspiring...a key document in the growing literature devoted to post-genocidal justice.
The Burundian Genocide
The 1993 Burundian genocide (which preceded the 1994 genocide in Rwanda) traces back to the end of Belgian colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s and the first Berudian genocide of 1972. Burundian history fits, like interlocking puzzle pieces, with that of its northern neighbor, Rwanda (map of Central Africa).
Like in Rwanda, Hutus make up about 86% of the population in Burundi, with only about 13% Tutsis (the remaining 1% are Twa pygmies). Unlike in Rwanda, where the Hutu majority took power, the small Tutsi elite in Burundi held onto government and military positions after independence. In April 1972, there was a bloody Hutu uprising which prompted an even more grisly retaliation by the Tutsi military. The Tutsis systematically killed Hutu intellectuals, politicians, and professionals as well as the insurgents. Estimates of the dead vary greatly, but most agree at least 100,000 people were killed, and maybe as many as 300,000.
Many Hutus fled Burundi for neighboring countries, including Rwanda where they were the...
This is the long-hidden saga of how a handful of Americans and Kenyans fought the British colonial government, the U.S. State Department, and segregation to "airlift" to U.S. universities, between 1959 and 1963, nearly 800 young East African men and women who would go on to change the world.
The riveting life story of hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina who, as his country was being torn apart by violence during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, sheltered more than 12,000 members of the Tutsi clan and Hutu moderates, while homicidal mobs raged outside with machetes.
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