I read Naomi Benaron‘s Running the Rift over the holidays, and I think my family may have been frustrated by the way I kept sneaking off to lock myself in the basement and read in peace. As much as I love family games of Yahtzee, Running the Rift transported me straight to Rwanda and I was consumed by Jean Patrick Nkuba’s story. I’m not the only one who loved Benaron’s first novel; Running the Rift received the Bellwether Prize, awarded biennially by Barbara Kingsolver for a manuscript that addresses issues of social justice. Previous winners include The Girl Who Fell from the Sky and Mudbound.
Jean Patrick Nkuba, the central character in Running the Rift, grows up in Rwanda as a smart and talented Tutsi boy who aspires to one day make running the center of his life. As his desire to become Rwanda’s first Olympic medal contender in track increases, Hutu-Tutsi tensions escalate and begin to tear apart Jean Patrick’s life and his country. He is forced to make difficult decisions as the killing begins and the lives of his family, friends, and the woman he loves are endangered. Benaron’s descriptions of Rwanda are wonderful and her characters are emotionally captivating. Once you pass this book on to your friends and family, they’ll understand why you kept slipping away to read by yourself.
See below for an excerpt. We have 3 copies to give away. Want to win one? Just leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. Good luck!
Praise for Running the Rift:
“In Naomi Benaron’s Running the Rift, a novel full of unspeakable strife but also joy, humor, and love, ‘hope always [chases] close on the heels of despair,’ thanks to a writer who knows when to keep a steady pace and when to explode into an all-out sprint.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“An auspicious debut … Having worked extensively with genocide survivor groups in Rwanda, Benaron clearly acquired a very lucid sense of her characters’ lives and of the horrors they endured … While it would be counterintuitive to pronounce this a winning, feel-good story, there is something to be said for hope restored. And Naomi Benaron’s characters say it well.”—The Daily Beast
“Benaron writes with self-assurance, intelligence, and a rare musicality that keeps the reader glued to what’s understandably wrenching subject matter. Her prose, while beautiful, is unsparing, and she doesn’t understate the horrors of the genocide. She is a breathtakingly compassionate writer, one who doesn’t fall into the trap of condescension that befalls many Western authors.”—Michael Schaub, Publishers Lunch
“The politics will be familiar to those who have followed Africa’s crises (or seen Hotel Rwanda), but where Benaron shines is in her tender descriptions of Rwandan’s natural beauty and in her creation of Jean Patrick, a hero whose noble innocence and genuine human warmth are impossible not to love.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Benaron accomplishes the improbable feat of wringing genuine loveliness from unspeakable horror… It is a testament to Benaron’s skill that a novel about genocide … conveys so profoundly the joys of family, friendship, and community.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“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.”—Library Journal, starred review