NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY:Los Angeles Times • San Francisco Chronicle •Chicago Tribune • The Christian Science...
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY:Los Angeles Times • San Francisco Chronicle •Chicago Tribune • The Christian Science...
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY:
Los Angeles Times • San Francisco Chronicle •Chicago Tribune • The Christian Science Monitor • Publishers Weekly
In Strength in What Remains, Tracy Kidder gives us the story of one man’s inspiring American journey and of the ordinary people who helped him, providing brilliant testament to the power of second chances. Deo arrives in the United States from Burundi in search of a new life. Having survived a civil war and genocide, 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 and shows us what it means to be fully human.
BONUS: This edition contains a Strength in What Remains discussion guide.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Named one of the Top 10 Nonfiction Books of the year by Time • Named one of the year’s “10 Terrific Reads” by O: The Oprah Magazine
“Extraordinarily stirring . . . a miracle of human courage.”—The Washington Post
“Absorbing . . . a story about survival, about perseverance and sometimes uncanny luck in the face of hell on earth. . . . It is just as notably about profound human kindness.”—The New York Times
“Important and beautiful . . . This book is one you won’t forget.”—Portland Oregonian
Part One, Flights
Bujumbura-NewYork, May 1994
On the outskirts of the capital, Bujumbura, there is a small international airport. It has a modern terminal with intricate roofs and domed metal structures that resemble astronomical observatories. It is the kind of terminal that seems designed to say that here you leave the past behind, the future has arrived, behold the wonders of aviation. But in Burundi in 1994, for the lucky few with tickets, an airplane was just the fastest, safest way out. It was flight.
In the spring of that year, violence and chaos governed Burundi. To the west, the hills above Bujumbura were burning. Smoke seemed to be pouring off the hills, as the winds of mid-May carried the plumes of smoke downward in undulating sheets, in the general direction of the airport. A large passenger jet was parked on the tarmac, and a disordered crowd was heading toward it in sweaty haste. Deo felt as if he were being carried by the crowd, immersed in an unfamiliar river. The faces around him were mostly white, and though many were black or brown, there was no one whom he recognized, and so far as he could tell there were no country people. As a little boy, he had crouched behind rocks or under trees the first times he'd seen airplanes passing overhead. He had never been so close to a plane before. Except for buildings in the capital, this was the largest man-made thing he'd ever seen. He mounted the staircase quickly. Only when he had entered the plane did he let himself look back, staring from inside the doorway as if from a hiding place again. In Deo's mind, there was danger everywhere. If his heightened sense of drama was an inborn trait, it had certainly been nourished. For months every situation had in fact been dangerous. Climbing the stairs a moment before, he had imagined a voice in his head telling him not to leave. But now he stared at the hills and he imagined that everything in Burundi was burning. Burundi had become hell. He finally turned away, and stepped inside. In front of him were cushioned chairs with clean white cloths draped over their backs, chairs in perfect rows with little windows on the ends. This was the most nicely appointed room he'd ever seen. It looked like paradise compared to everything outside. If it was real, it couldn't last.
The plane was packed, but he felt entirely alone. He had a seat by a window. Something told him not to look out, and something told him to look. He did both. His hands were shaking. He felt he was about to vomit. Everyone had heard stories of planes being shot down, not only the Rwandan president's plane back in April but others as well. He was waiting for this to happen after the plane took off. For several long minutes, whenever he glanced out the window all he saw was smoke. When the air cleared and he could see the landscape below, he realized that they must already have crossed the Akanyaru River, which meant they had left Burundi and were now above Rwanda. He had crossed a lot of the land down there on foot. It wasn't all that small. To see it transformed into a tiny piece of time and space-this could only happen in a dream.
He gazed down, face pressed against the windowpane. Plumes of smoke were also rising from the ground of what he took to be Rwanda-if anything, more smoke than around Bujumbura. A lot of it was coming from the banks of muddy-looking rivers. He thought, "People are being slaughtered down there." But those sights didn't last long. When he realized he wasn't seeing smoke anymore, he took his face away from the window and felt himself begin to relax, a...
About the Author-
Tracy Kidder graduated from Harvard and studied at the University of Iowa. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award, and many other literary prizes. The author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, My Detachment, Home Town, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, and The Soul of a New Machine, Kidder lives in Massachusetts and Maine.
Starred review from May 11, 2009
With an anthropologist's eye and a novelist's pen, Pulitzer Prize–winning Kidder (Mountains Beyond Mountains
) recounts the story of Deo, the Burundian former medical student turned American émigré at the center of this strikingly vivid story. Told in flashbacks from Deo's 2006 return visit to Burundi to mid-1990s New York and the Burundi of childhood memory and young adulthood—as the Rwandan genocide spilled across the border following the same inflamed ethnic divisions—then picking up in 2003, when author and subject first meet, Deo's experience is conveyed with a remarkable depth of vision and feeling. Kidder renders his subject with deep yet unfussy fidelity and the conflict with detail and nuance. While the book might recall Dave Eggers's novelized version of a real-life Sudanese refugee's experience in What Is the What
, reading this book hardly covers old ground, but enables one to walk in the footsteps of its singular subject and see worlds new and old afresh. This profoundly gripping, hopeful and crucial testament is a work of the utmost skill, sympathy and moral clarity.
June 15, 2009
A tale of ethnocide, exile and healing by a master of narrative nonfiction.
Deogratias, Deo for short, is a young African man who would be easy to lose in the busy streets of New York—timid, unsure of which subway goes where, speaking only halting English. So he arrived more than a decade ago, one of many with a sobering story. From Burundi, he narrowly escaped being massacred for being Tutsi, then fled across the border to Rwanda, where he narrowly escaped death in many guises. In New York, he was befriended by a kindhearted Senegalese who invited him to join a community of squatters from West Africa, Jamaica and other foreign lands. But when his friend returned to Africa—"it's so hard here," he told Deo—the young Burundian was on his own, living on the streets, sleeping in parks and libraries. From there, by virtue of hard work and personal charm, he steadily rose in a way that would do Horatio Alger proud. He gained admission to Columbia and worked to finish the medical degree he was earning back home, all the while sending hard-earned money to relatives and taking elective courses in literature and the humanities. When Kidder (My Detachment, 2005, etc.) picks up the tale in the first person, he accompanies Deo on a return trip to a remote part of Burundi, where the former refugee built a hospital. Upon seeing this place, called Village Health Works, one Hutu man who had pledged to killing Tutsis remarks,"I wish I had spent my life trying to do something like this." The moment, Kidder makes clear, does not portend forgiveness, for the graves of untold hundreds of thousands are still too fresh—but it does speak to the possibility of remembrance and, one hopes, reconciliation.
Terrifying at turns, but tremendously inspiring—like Andrew Rice's The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget (2009), a key document in the growing literature devoted to postgenocidal justice.
(COPYRIGHT (2009) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
May 1, 2009
Deo was a young medical student in 1994 when ethnic tensions between Hutu and Tutsi in Burundi elevated to the level of massacres. He spent six months on the run from the Hutu militia, saved by a Hutu woman who claimed he was her son, and later he made his way to New York, saved by a former nun who helped him find housing and other assistance. In the first half of the book, Kidder recalls Deos struggles as an illegal immigrant, working for poverty wages andsleeping in abandoned buildings, crack houses, and Central Park, all the while recovering from severe trauma and longing for a university setting. Through benefactors, Deo goes on to graduate from Columbia University and to attend medical school at Dartmouth. Eventually working with a nonprofit organization that provides health care in impoverished nations, Deo returned to Burundi to build a clinic. The second half of the book is Kidders recollections of accompanying Deo on his return trip home, a frightening journey of remembrances. Kidder uses Deos experiences to deliver a very personal and harrowing account of the ethnic genocide in East Central Africa.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2009, American Library Association.)
- Ron Suskind, The New York Time Book Review "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. Deo's experience can feel like this era's version of the Ellis Island migration. Deo is propelled, so often, by pure will, and his victories...summon a feeling of restored confidence in human nature and American opportunity. Then we plunge into hell. Having only glimpses of Deo's past, we suddenly get a full-blown portrait. Kidder's rendering of what Deo endured and survived just before he boarded the plane for New York is one of the most powerful passages of modern nonfiction."
- Boston Globe "Kidder tells Deo's story with characteristic skill and sensitivity in a complex narrative that moves back and forth through time to build a richly layered portrait. One of the pleasures of reading Kidder is that sooner or later, in most of his books, someone puts us in mind of the closing lines from ''Middlemarch'': ''For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.''"
- Time Magazine "A tale of unspeakable barbarism and unshakeable strength."
- Wall Street Journal "It is a mark of the skill and empathy of Mr. Kidder, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, that he makes Deo's story come alive believably--as the experience of a real individual--and avoids...the usual tropes of a triumph-of-the- human-spirit tale. [T]he book encourages a general hope that individuals can transcend even the greatest horrors."
- Chicago Tribune "Strength in What Remains" builds in magnitude and poignancy. It is moving without being uplifting, because Kidder has the intelligence to avoid any hint of the saccharine within its pages."
- Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times "[Tracy Kidder's] kind of literary journalism...involves seeing the world through the eyes of those he writes about; not judging them, simply presenting them as they move through life... Kidder is one of the best, if not the best, at it, garnering a Pulitzer, a National Book Award and generations of grateful readers."
- Cleveland Plain Dealer "In its sober ability to astonish, this may well be Tracy Kidder's best book."
- Seattle Times "Tracy Kidder's new book "Strength in What Remains"
- Publishers Weekly ( starred review) "With an anthropologist's eye and a novelist's pen, Pulitzer Prize--winning Kidder (Mountains Beyond Mountains) recounts the story of Deo, the Burundian former medical student turned American émigré at the center of this strikingly vivid story.... This profoundly gripping, hopeful and crucial testament is a work of the utmost skill, sympathy and moral clarity."
- Kirkus Reviews "A tale of ethnocide, exile and healing by a master of narrative nonfiction.... Terrifying at turns, but tremendously inspiring...a key document in the growing literature devoted to postgenocidal justice."
- Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action and The Lost Painting "Read this book, and it's one that you will not likely forget. The story of a journey, classical in its way, but contemporary and very modern in its details. It's written with such simplicity and lucidity that it transcends the moment and becomes as powerful and compelling as those journeys of myth."
- William Finnegan, author of Cold New World and Crossing the Line "The reporting is impeccable, but it's Kidder's great feat of sympathetic imagination that dazzles. Walk a mile in Deo's shoes; your world will be larger and darker for it."
PublisherRandom House Publishing Group
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