Winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction
Running the Rift follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Rwandan boy, from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life, a ten-year span in which his country is undone by the Hutu-Tutsi tensions.
Born a Tutsi, he is thrust into a world where it’s impossible to stay apolitical—where the man who used to sell you gifts for your family now spews hatred, where the girl who flirted with you in the lunchroom refuses to look at you, where your Hutu coach is secretly training the very soldiers who will hunt down your family.
Yet in an environment increasingly restrictive for the Tutsi, he holds fast to his dream of becoming Rwanda’s first Olympic medal contender in track, a feat he believes might deliver him and his people from this violence. When the killing begins, Jean Patrick is forced to flee, leaving behind the woman, the family, and the country he loves. Finding them again is the race of his life.
“This is truly fearless writing: ambitious, beautiful, unapologetically passionate.” —Barbara Kingsolver
“Audacious . . . Compelling . . . Benaron has to be loudly applauded for her bravura.” —The Washington Post
“A culturally rich and unflinching story of resilience and resistance.” —Chicago Tribune
“A novel of unspeakable strife but also joy, humor, and love.” —O: The Oprah Magazine
“Benaron accomplishes the improbable feat of wringing genuine loveliness from unspeakable horror … [Running the Rift] conveys so profoundly the joys of family, friendship, and community.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[An] unflinching and beautifully crafted account of a people and their survival … Highly recommended; readers who loved Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner will appreciate.”—Library Journal, starred review
“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
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.
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