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Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron

Running the Rift (edition 2012)

by Naomi Benaron

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4382723,979 (4.13)62
Title:Running the Rift
Authors:Naomi Benaron
Info:Algonquin Books (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Dr. Elaine Newton's 2012 Reading List

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Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron


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Running the Rift is a slow moving novel but it is never boring. It gives great detail into what it is like as a young person growing up in Rwanda in political upheaval. I learned what being a student is like, you don't get to pick the subjects you study or how important family is, having Easter dinner all together, or how dating couples behave , no kissing in public... What it is like to be a Tutsi in a country where Tutsi are made into the political scapegots of the Hutu. The tribal likeness and differences are well described These traditions are alive and so well described in this book. Jean Patrick faces many trials in his young life as he tries to make his way as a 800 meter runner aiming for the Olympics. All these come to an abrupt halt when political murders cause the genocide that even in print is difficult to read let alone understand. Why was Rawanda abandon by the world? This book is important and I learned a lot. ( )
  Smits | May 8, 2016 |
This is the most recent winner of Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Award for fiction about social justice. At first I was a bit leery of the topic, the Rwanda genocide of the early 1990’s. The author is not Rwandan, nor is she even from the African continent. I questioned how she could give voice to what happened during that time. But I was pleasantly surprised. “Pleasantly” is probably not the best word to use here. I found myself very tense while reading the novel - I know what happened in Rwanda. I did not want to get too close to any character, knowing that there was a good chance, if they were Tutsi, or Hutu and a Tutsi sympathizer, that they were likely to suffer a horrible death before the end of the story. This was a powerful novel from beginning to end and one that I would highly recommend.
I was impressed by the craft of the author in incorporating what she knows best. When I read that she was a triathlete, I wondered how that gave her the necessary skills to write this book, but the main character is a runner, hoping to be the first Rwandan to win a medal in the Olympics. The author has degrees in Earth Science and Oceanography and worked as a seismologist and geophysicist for multinational corporations.. Another central character is a professor of geology and the main character is studying geology at the University. He recites the names of rock formations as he runs to keep his mind off the pains in his legs and frequently the pain in his heart. The author has worked extensively with refugees/survivors from Rwanda and seems to give a reliable voice to that incredible time of history.
Once again, a Bellwether Award winner does not disappoint the reader.
( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
The story of a boy during the Rwanda genocide. Depressing of course. Somehow I didn't feel very connected to the characters and didn't think the story moved along enough to keep my attention. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
A genocide is a poisonous bush that grows not from two or three roots, but from a whole tangle that has moldered underground without anyone noticing.
Claudine, genocide survivor, from "Life Laid Bare" by Jean Hatzfeld

So says the epigraph of this disturbing but necessary novel. Yes, we do have the benefit of hindsight, but it seems like the victims definitely noticed this growing. It was very obvious to them what was coming and the world stood by and watched it happen. I’ve always thought that if we eliminated the arms trade things like this would not happen. Or at least they would happen in smaller magnitudes than the Holocaust and other genocidal tragedies. But although grenades, RPGs, and guns were used by the Hutu to massacre the Tutsi, there were also plenty of machetes, homemade clubs, rocks, and fire. Hatred can find a way unless it is countered. And we must find ways to counter it or we are doomed to watch and read this story over and over again.

This is a gripping novel. It’s not for the light hearted looking for a diversion from the trials and tribulations of life. It’s dark and scary. But if you can stick with it, you’ll probably realize that your life could be considerably worse. You’ll be charmed by the protagonist, Jean Patrick, and pulling for him to realize his Olympic dream. Despite the hindsight of knowing what is going to happen, you will hope along with him and his Tutsi family and friends that it won’t.

This winner of the Bellwether Prize for socially engaged fiction is well worth the read. Read it and think about weeding out the hatred you see around you and within you before it gets to a point like this. A shout out to the Indispensable crew at Powell’s Books for putting this novel in my hands!

Urupfu rurarya ntiruhaga. Death eats and is never full.
--Book Three Epigraph ( )
  jveezer | Jan 31, 2015 |
I have to wonder if I would have enjoyed this more if I was reading it, and not listening to it. It's not that the narrator did a poor job, but he contributed to the feeling (or created it) that the writing was choppy. I thought the author threw a thought or idea out there and then just didn't finish it. There were places where I thought there should have been another sentence or two there.

If the subject of the novel had been anything other than the Rwandan genocide, I probably would not have finished it. The first half of the novel would have earned it 2 stars and it didn't pick up until Book 3. To be honest, part of the problem was that I didn't like the main character. His naivete, which was sweet when he was younger, was simply infuriating as he got older. And I felt like the author brushed over some of the loss scenes. The main character's father, then beloved sister dies, and the novel moves on, in my opinion, without the main character grieving. The scene where the main character is on the phone with his mentor and a school full of refugees, as the army is barging on the door to kill them all, is tear jerking. But when Jean Patrick gets off the phone, there's nothing. No shock, no horror, no grief, just the next scene. And then towards the end, all but one brother is killed. His WHOLE family is murdered, and it felt to me like the effect that would have on a person was brushed over.

On the other hand, I believed in the connection between Jean Patrick and Bea. And as I finished the book two days ago, I do still find myself thinking about it. "Haunting" is an apt description of this novel. Overall, I think it had a lot more potential and fell short in several areas. Yet, the story has stayed with me.

( )
  carebear10712 | Dec 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
This well-written and well-researched novel is an impressive debut, although at times the book suffers from a surfeit of disturbing events. Our sympathy never deserts Jean Patrick. We concur with Bea when she says to him, "Your hope is the most beautiful and the saddest in the world."
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A genocide is a poisonous bush that grows not from two or three roots, but from a whole tangle that hass moldered underground without anyone noticing.
Claudine, genocide survivor, from "Life Laid Bare" by Jean Hatzfeld
Izina ni ryo muntu. The name is the very man named.
Buhoro buhoro ni rwo urugendo. Slowly, slowly, a bird builds its nest.
Urupfu rurarya ntiruhaga. Death eats and is never full.
Umuntu asiga ikimwirukaho ariko ntawusiga ikimwirukamo. You can outdistance that which is runniing after you, but not what is running inside you.
For Mathilde Mukantabana and Alexandre Kimenyi,
whose spark lights these pages. And for all the survivors of the Rwandan Genocide who lent me their voices;
and for those who did not survive,
but whose voices whisper to me still.
First words
Jean Patrick was already awake, listening to the storm, when Papa opened the door and stood by the side of the bed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Winner of the Bellwether Prize awarded biennially by Barbara Kingsolver, Running the Rift follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Rwandan boy, from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life, a ten-year span in which his country in undone by the Hutu-Tutsi tensions.
Born a Tutsi, he is thrust into a world where it's impossible to stay apolitical--where the man who used to sell you gifts for your family now spews hatred, where the girl who flirted with you in the lunch room refuses to look at you, where your Hutu coach is secretly training the very soldiers who will hunt down your family. Yet in an environment increasingly restrictive for his people, he holds fast to his dream of becoming Rwanda's first Olympic medal contender in track--a feat he believes might deliver him and his people from the violence.
When the killing begins, Jean Patrick is forced to flee, leaving behind the woman, the family, and the country he loves. Finding them again is the ultimate race of his life.
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Rwandan runner Jean Patrick Nkuba dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal and uniting his ethnically divided country, only to be driven from everyone he loves when the violence starts, after which he must find a way back to a better life.

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