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Running the rift : a novel
Naomi Benaron
Adult Fiction BENARON

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Set in the years leading up to the Rwanda genocide, Benaron's Bellweather Prize-winning debut novel follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, "the jewel in Rwanda's crown," a Tutsi boy with a gift for running. Jean Patrick dreams of representing Rwanda in the Olympics, but must contend with abject poverty, an ethnic quota system, and savage bullying. He runs Olympic-qualifying times, moving closer to his dreams as tensions rise between the governing Hutus and the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Force), a Tutsi-led rebel army. Jean Patrick gains the favor of the president, but falls in love with a journalism student participating in antigovernment activism, and finds himself entangled in a vast and calamitous game of political chess. "Something unimaginable is coming," warns his brother, a rebel soldier, and when the long-smoldering tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis erupt into a hellish conflagration, Jean Patrick must run away from the country he has spent his life running for. Benaron accomplishes the improbable feat of wringing genuine loveliness from unspeakable horror. She renders friendships and families with tenderness and sincerity, and lingers on the goodwill that binds a fractious community, even as those tethers grow taut and, finally, snap. She regards even the genocidaires with clear-eyed charity, allowing moral complexity to color the perversity of their deeds. It is a testament to Benaron's skill that a novel about genocide-about neighbors and friends savagely turning on one another-conveys so profoundly the joys of family, friendship, and community. This powerful novel recounts inhumanity on a scale scarcely imaginable, yet rebukes its nihilism, countering unforgivable violence with small mercies and unyielding hope. (Jan. 17) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

We first meet Jean Patrick Nkuba in 1984 Rwanda as he and his family mourn the death of Jean Patrick's father in a car accident. In the decade to come, we follow Jean Patrick through secondary school, where he becomes both a scholar and a gifted middle--distance runner. His dreams of achieving Olympic glory seem assured, but he is Tutsi, and Rwanda's Hutu-Tutsi tensions are steadily increasing. In the violent explosion of 1994 what happens to Jean Patrick and his family reflects the collective experience of Rwanda's 800,000-plus genocide victims. First novelist Benaron, who has actively worked with refugee groups, won the 2010 Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for this unflinching and beautifully crafted account of a people and their survival. In addition, she compellingly details the growth and rigorous training of a young athlete. VERDICT Readers who do not shy away from depictions of violence will find this tale of social justice a memorable read, and those interested in coming-of-age stories set in wartime will want it as well. Highly recommended; readers who loved Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner will appreciate.-Jenn B. Stidham, Houston -Community Coll.-Northeast, TX (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Jean Patrick Nkuba
Born a Tutsi; dreams of becoming Rwanda's first Olympic contender in track; forced to flee the woman, the family, and the country he loves.

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