Jean Patrick Nkuba just wants to run for as long, and as fast, as he possibly can. His greatest dream is to represent Rwanda in the Olympics. But Jean Patrick is a Tutsi and his story takes place in the years leading up to and just after the 1994 Tutsi genocide. We first meet him in 1984 when he is living a life sheltered from the politics of the day on the campus of the school where his father teaches and later in a Tutsi village. The Hutu-Tutsi conflict slowly creeps into Jean Patrick’s life as his running takes him away from the village and into the cities of Rwanda. He finds love and friendship and inches ever closer to his Olympic dream.
There is violence and heartache in this novel (there has to be, given the time), but Benaron manages to show the pain with enough joy mixed in that the story never becomes too depressing. This is the first book I read in 2012 and my reading year is off to a great start.