“Well, it’s Quick Takes Friday tomorrow, but I’d love to write my review of this book.”
“So why not do it in seven quick takes?”
Then we moved on to other things. She probably thought nothing of it because it probably didn’t seem like quite the revelation to her that it was to me.
A book in 7 quick takes? A book review in 7 quick takes!
Well, then, here’s my review of Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza, in 7 quick takes. You can see the full round-up of today’s quick takes over at Conversion Diary.
I’ve been hesitating on reading Left to Tell for some time. Oh, I’ve heard and read plenty of rave reviews. But…it seemed so hard. I knew it was a book about the Rwandan genocide and I had heard Immaculee’s story through others. She came to a neighboring parish during Lent, and it was probably my colleague’s account that put me over the top. That and the fact that she put the book in my hands.
Despite my qualms, Left to Tell is a great book, with a powerful story and good writing. It’s hard to believe English is Immaculee’s third language, learned, at first, in that bathroom that was her home for three months during the genocide. That said, the editors and Steve Erwin (whose name is under hers on the cover) probably had a lot to do with keeping language from being the barrier in this story being told. My hat’s off to them. They are the reason, I think, that the book is gripping and, though painful, a fast read.
The Rwandan genocide is a horrifying fact, but that’s not all of the story. What happened is beyond my ability to fully grasp, and I did feel choked up through most of the book, when I stopped to think about the immensity of the genocide. I wasn’t expecting Left to Tell to do more than give me shivers, make me cringe, affirm the failure of humanity. And yet, it did. It made me consider my own corner of the world in a new way. It gave me new eyes for those little people in the back seat, for the annoyances in the kitchen, for the silly trivialities that get under my skin.
Forgiveness and peace go hand-in-hand. Perhaps the part that most moved me in the book was Immaculee’s struggle with forgiveness. It’s a struggle I recognize as my own, one that I always revisit, usually when I least expect it. In Left to Tell, though, I finally got words for some of the insight I’ve felt about forgiveness. To bring peace to the world, I have to bring peace to my corner of the world. I have to work and give and sacrifice for that peace. And I have to forgive. I have to do more than just mouth the words; I have to do it, even if no one else sees it. There is no peace without forgiveness. The world is impacted by my hard heart, and though I may not be wielding a machete and killing my neighbors, I may not be preventing that from happening when I kill others through my lack of forgiveness.
Where’s my bathroom? After three months in a bathroom with seven other women (or was it eight? Yikes! I’ve already given the book back!), Immaculee was thrilled to be out in the open. And yet, she shares how, in those months after the genocide ended, when she was living with in a refugee camp and then with a friend, she found herself longing for the quiet and the communion she had found with God. In that bathroom, Immaculee forged a relationship with God that I can’t help but admire…and desire. She prayed in a way that inspires me to try harder, but with less of me and more of Him. Where’s my bathroom? Do I have a quiet place to retreat to, even amidst the chaos and noise of daily living? And am I going there often enough, so that I can feel God’s hand at work in my every move?
There’s a message for each of us in Left to Tell. My life is pretty cushy, though I don’t appreciate that enough. One of the reasons this book is a sensation (or it seems that way to me) is because, despite so many differences, we see ourselves in its tale of horror and forgiveness. I see a modern day example of martyrdom, told so gently and shared so openly, that I can’t help but be changed.
If you haven’t read it, you should. No, it’s not an easy book to read. Fast, yes, but not easy. You’ll probably feel challenged and maybe a little intimidated. But see if you don’t walk away from Left to Tell with a deeper appreciation for your life — and for your God.