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Running the Rift: A Novel
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Running the Rift: A Novel

4.0 10
by Naomi Benaron
 

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Running the Rift follows the progress of Jean Patrick Nkuba from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life. A naturally gifted athlete, he sprints over the thousand hills of Rwanda and dreams of becoming his country’s first Olympic medal winner in track. But Jean Patrick is a Tutsi in a world that has become

Overview

Running the Rift follows the progress of Jean Patrick Nkuba from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life. A naturally gifted athlete, he sprints over the thousand hills of Rwanda and dreams of becoming his country’s first Olympic medal winner in track. But Jean Patrick is a Tutsi in a world that has become increasingly restrictive and violent for his people. As tensions mount between the Hutu and Tutsi, he holds fast to his dream that running might deliver him, and his people, from the brutality around them.

Winner of the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Naomi Benaron has written a stunning and gorgeous novel that—through the eyes of one unforgettable boy— explores a country’s unraveling, its tentative new beginning, and the love that binds its people together.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
05/15/2014
Jean Patrick Nkuba has a dream: he wants to be the first Rwandan to win an Olympic gold medal. Unfortunately, he has to survive a civil war and genocide to get there. Any book about Rwanda has to mention the 1994 conflict that claimed over 800,000 lives, but this Bellwether Prize-winning debut novel is primarily about a boy with a dream. VERDICT This marvelous and lyrical book celebrates the inimitable spirit of humanity. (LJ 8/11)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616201876
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
10/16/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
50,912
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Naomi Benaron holds an MFA from Antioch University and an MS from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is also an Ironman triathlete. She teaches for UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, mentors for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, and has worked extensively with genocide survivor groups in Rwanda. For more information, visit www.naomibenaron.com. Naomi Benaron is available for select speaking engagements. contact speakersbureau@workman.com.

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Running the Rift 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written and a wonderful journey to follow. Worth getting through the first half of the book to enjoy the second half :)
archetype67 More than 1 year ago
Naomi Benaron's <i>Running the Rift</i> is an excellent, but at times, difficult read: difficult in content not in execution. It is the story of Jean Patrick, a Rwandan Tutsi who is a runner and of his family and friends.  We first meet Jean Patrick when he is a boy when he learns of his father's death.  His father had always tried to believe that the peace between Hutu and Tutsi would last, but that belief is not shared by his wife, his brother in law, or Jean Patrick's older brother Roger.  We follow the progress of Jean Patrick's life - from his waiting by the radio after taking national tests to see if he is top in his class so he can go to secondary school on scholarship (government quota's limited how many Tutsi's could continue schooling) to his days as a runner training at university for the olympics.  Throughout the novel the reader sees Jean Patrick's stubborn determination - to be the best runner, and to ignore the politics and the building tension around him.  We see how he is popular and how people make concessions because although he is Tutsi, he is a world-class runner.  We also see the embedded hate simply because he is not the favored class of Rwandan - he tolerates being threatened, beaten, insulted and worse because he, and others like him, cannot fight back. Through Jean Patrick and his experiences we learn of the cultural and history of Rwanda and we see the ever present bias that pits one group of people against another &mdash; people who have been taught that despite their common language and culture &mdash; that they are different, and one is superior and the other is a threat.  Jean Patrick sees his running as something that can represent all of Rwanda and he is encouraged by family and his coach to use that to his advantage, and to do whatever is necessary, even if it means denying his heritage.  It is his girlfriend Bea, however, that pushes him to see more that is going on around him.  She is Hutu, but her father is a journalist and willing to defy those in power to let the world know of what is happening in Rwanda. What Jean Patrick tries to ignore, the audience sees and  the story pushes us to what we know will be the genocide.  A history we, especially American's, have often only have a vague sense of.  The novel's impact is that it is small story - one boy from one family in one province of Rwanda - yet manages to show how the true horror of the Rwandan genocide was not that it was perpetrated by a government that sent troops to round up and kill or by an invading force, but by a minority of hardliners who convinced neighbors to turn on neighbors.  Over the course of a few weeks, an estimated million Tutsi and Hutu's who aided them or were seen as sympathizers were murdered by fellow Rwandan's who used machete's, clubs and knives far more than guns and grenades or camps.   Benaron doesn't dwell on the violence, but paints enough detail to leave the reader with a sense of horror at what happened, and what the West didn't do.  While 'fictional' violence doesn't tend to impact me on a personal level, knowing that what Benaron shows the audience is only a sliver of the real violence of those months, it is enough to leave me with bad dreams. At the end however, the audience is left knowing that while so few survived and lost everything, they yet somehow retain hope, even if that hope is slow in rising.   The title of Benaron's novel refers to the geological feature of the area (the tectonic rift formed by the violent upheaval of the earth's crust), but also calls to mind the attempt of Jean Patrick to live and navigate between worlds that have a history of violent collision.  Science - physics and geological feature in the story and act as metaphors, as does the sport of running.  In the notes, the author says that she was a serious runner, and it shows in the descriptions of runners, and racing.   I'll note here that, as a book written about such a complex situation by someone from outside of the culture, there has been some accusations of cultural appropriation.  I think those are unfounded in this case (and perhaps leveled by individuals who haven't read it) because Benaron has done her homework - both learning the history of a nation and developing an understanding of a cultural that has seen tremendous upheaval and loss.  He characters are never stereotypes and are complex individuals.  I listened to parts of this on audiobook and it moves lyrically - she has spent extended time in Rwanda living with Rwandans and her love of them and the country shows in her writing.  The audiobook gave me a sense of the language - its metaphors and rhythms, while her details gave me an sense of a culture I didn't know, and made me cheer for characters I knew in my heart were doomed.   This book is likely to stick with me for a long time - both negatively and positively.  Benaron didn't write an unbelievable against the odds ending, and I am thankful for that, having read many articles and accounts of the Genocide, but it also wasn't a bleak ending.  A powerful story that should be read by those who like their fiction with a social consciousness.  
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