Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
Delacorte Press, New York, 2009
Borrowed from the library.
I saw this on the display shelf at my library and remember reading a blog post about it. Of course, I can’t remember who’s blog it was. Thank you, whoever you are.
Angel Tungaraza, a women from Tanzania now living in Kigali, Rwanda, is building a business. She and her husband are struggling to raise their five grandchildren and her cakes bring in needed income. They also allow her the opportunity to ask questions of and listen to her customers. Angel is kind and open-hearted. From her customers and her neighbors she hears stories of pain and survival. There is HIV, there are the memories of terrible slaughter.
Through Angel’s thoughts we learn of her history, her own losses. With her intelligence, generosity and kindness she offers help to others and a clear-sighted vision of the world around her.
When I first started reading this lovely book it reminded me of the series by Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Parkin uses the same light touch with Angel as McCall Smith uses with his heroine, Precious Ramotswe. Baking Cakes has much of the same tone, it is gentle and funny at times, but it deals with deep emotions and the struggles of people recovering from tramua and learning to deal honestly with a frightening disease. Parkin uses Angel, her family, friends and customers to tell the stories of the deadly spread of AIDS in Africa and the effects of the 1994 genocide on Rwanda’s people. For such an gentle, pleasing book it offers quite a punch.
For those wishing to learn more about the genocide in Rwanda there is an very well written and intense book , We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch, and a movie called Hotel Rwanda which is based on real life events. The book is difficult reading and the film is very hard to watch.