Saturday 1 August 2009

Great New Novel

Finished July 25
Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
Got a bit behind in posting my reads.
This one was a prepublication copy that I got through Library Journal, and I absolutely loved it. It has the feel of an Alexander McCall Smith Botswana novel but more depth to it.
The main character is Angel Tungaraza, who is from Tanzania. She and her husband Pius are in Rwanda where he, a university professor, is doing consulting work for the United Nations. They live in a U.N. compound, with local security guards protecting them. Angel and Pius are raising their five grandchildren as both their son and daughter have died. Angel bakes cakes out of her home to raise extra money.
It is this sideline that gives Angel opportunities to meet a wide variety of people. These include U.N. volunteers, officials from other countries, and locals. Angel speaks English and Swahili, which allows her to converse with most, but not all people she meets. In meeting with people who come to her for cakes, she gets drawn into issues in their lives, and it is these serious issues and how Angel confronts them that add the depth. Issues from genocide to AIDS, from feminism to literacy are touched on. Angel learns from each experience and applies them to her own life and relationships. Angel is a character who is complex and sometimes troubled, but tries to be honest with herself. She is a "professional somebody" who weighs her words and actions carefully before she moves forward. She has compassion for others and is genuinely interested in the people she meets.
As I said, I loved this book and highly recommend it.

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