Running the Rift

It’s a book that will stay with you.

You’ll wonder why you read it, but be so glad you did.

“Running the Rift” is the tale of young Jean Patrick Nkuba, a Tutsi growing up in war-torn Rwanda in the 80s and 90s. We first meet Jean Patrick on the day his father mysteriously dies in a car accident, shaking his family to the core and forcing them to leave the safety of their home to live with relatives. Jean Patrick is a resilient sort, focused on a singular goal—to run in the Olympics. It’s at this young age, though, that he first realizes his Tutsi heritage could keep him from running, and despite his family’s approval, he struggles with the concept of creating an alternate reality for himself—a Hutu one.

The story follows John Patrick through his college years, with the Hutu-Tutsi conflict featured prominently throughout. It’s all about relationships—familial, friends, love—and how one soul copes with tragedy, turmoil and adversity. This is not an easy read—not a “I’d like something light for the beach” kind of book. It reminded me of one of my favorite movies, “The Killing Fields” — similiar themes of senseless violence and hate-mongering, with a ribbon of hope and friendship woven throughout—tie the two in my mind. (Trust me, I’m neither that serious or that deep—I just love stories that are beautifully well-written and leave me with tears of joy. I also love “Anchorman,” so go figure.)

A quick primer should you take this book on: The Hutus took control of Rwanda in the late 1950s, forcing many Tutsis to flee to neighboring countries. Many of those that fled founded and became involved in the RPF, which officially formed in 1988 and returned to Rwanda to ignite civil war in the late 80s. The Hutus began killing political opponents in the spring of 1994, leading to the mass genocide of Tutsis.

Despair aside, it’s such a beautifully written story, you won’t want to put it down. The story moves at a perfect pace, its intensity surprises, and the ending will lift your heart and solidify your faith in the power of love, hope and friendship.

Running the Rift
Naomi Benaron

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