When I finish a book, it's a matter of days before I forget minor details. Within weeks, major characters, important settings, and pivotal events escape me. But the true story of a former refugee named Deo, and his escape from unspeakable violence in worn-torn Burundi, is deeply imprinted in my mind.
It's an important thing to remember, too. As painful and disturbing as it is to read about the horrors that take place around this small planet, it is ultimately a redemptive exercise. Before this book, I couldn't find Burundi on a map, much less tell you about its violent unrest. Now, I have a greater understanding of the international ramifications of a country's political and social climate - like Rwanda and Belgium - which has heightened my awareness and compassion for those living in a world I pray to never encounter myself.
Deo's story is a remarkable one, and in my mind exemplifies what the "American Dream" is all about. Author Tracy Kidder follows Deo's story from when he was a boy - knowing nothing of the distinctions between Hutus and Tutsis - to the vicious bloodshed that forced him to flee on foot (with some very dangerous and scary close-calls), to his extraordinary escape to New York City where he knew no one and had only $200. Deo teaches himself how to speak English by vigorously studying a dictionary and is "discovered" by a woman in a church to whom he delivers groceries. Due to her persistence in finding opportunities for him, Deo ultimately graduates from Columbia University's School of Medicine, equipped to return to Burundi to heal the battered and broken Burundi people.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Strength in What Remains is an accessible, engaging read for anyone who likes true stories of triumph and healing. Also recommended: Hotel Rwanda (DVD)
Recommended by Leah Youse