Cockroaches

Scholastique Mukasonga, trans. from the French by Jordan Stump. Archipelago (PRH, dist.), $18 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-0-914671-53-4
In this harrowing autobiographical novel, a Rwandan woman recounts a girlhood riven by the vicious war between the Tutsis and the Hutus, a conflict that left 37 of her family members murdered in the 1994 genocide. Opening with her family’s expulsion from their native village, the early chapters illustrate the major trials and minor joys of communal exile. Scenes of unthinkable horror abut moments of great humanity: the narrator sees a friend maimed by a grenade; she connects with her mother by helping her tend to her garden. Academic excellence delivers the narrator from the refugee camp, first to a selective boarding school, then to an academy for social workers across the border in Burundi. After a final visit to her parents in 1986, the narrator settles in France, where she watches the genocide from afar, painfully helpless. Nearly a decade later, the narrator returns to the site of the refugee camp, where no signs of the lives lost can be found. Mukasonga’s (Our Lady of the Nile) powerful and poignant book plants itself in that terrible absence, its stone etched with a difficult, necessary grief. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/15/2016
Release date: 10/04/2016
Genre: Fiction
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