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Imagine that a man who was once friendly suddenly spewed hatred. That a girl who flirted with you in the lunchroom refused to look at you. That your coach secretly trained soldiers who would hunt down your family. Jean Patrick Nkuba is a gifted Tutsi boy who dreams of becoming Rwanda’s first Olympic medal contender in track. When the killing begins, he is forced to flee, leaving behind the woman, the family, and the country he loves. Finding them again is the race of his life.
Spanning ten years during which a small nation was undone by ethnic tension and Africa’s worst genocide in modern times, this novel explores the causes and effects of Rwanda’s great tragedy from Nkuba’s point of view. His struggles teach us that the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit can keep us going and ultimately lead to triumph.
"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. Her story tells, with compelling clarity, of Rwandan Tutsi youth, Jean Patrick Nkuba--who dreams of becoming Rwanda's first Olympic medalist. It's a dream he must postpone for more than a decade as the internecine savagery, Hutu vs. Tutsi, slaughters millions and derails the lives of countless others. 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
“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.”
—Library Journal [starred review]
“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]
“A powerful coming-of-age story that highlights the best and the worst of human nature.”
—Christian Science Monitor
“A novel full of unspeakable strife but also joy, humor, and love . . . 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
“Benaron depicts the rugged beauty of Rwanda and the horror of genocide vividly in these pages. She writes with an earnest clarity bringing the boy to manhood and imparting to readers a culturally rich and unflinching story of resilience and resistance.”
“It is exceptionally difficult to fictionalize a relatively recent mass murder without either cheapening the tragedy or becoming bogged down in grim reportage—but Ms. Benaron does a smart, sober job of it. . . . Running the Rift is well-paced but always makes time to demonstrate the apparatus of genocide.”
—Wall Street Journal
“Fictional differences between one person and another can justify violence too horrible to believe. Here one melodious voice can speak for us all.”