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Running the Rift follows the progress of Jean Patrick Nkuba from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life. A naturally gifted athlete, he sprints over the thousand hills of Rwanda and dreams of becoming his country’s first Olympic medal winner in track. But Jean Patrick is a Tutsi in a world that has become increasingly restrictive and violent for his people. As tensions mount between the Hutu and Tutsi, he holds fast to his dream that running might deliver him, and his people, from the brutality around them.

Winner of the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Naomi Benaron has written a stunning and gorgeous novel that—through the eyes of one unforgettable boy— explores a country’s unraveling, its tentative new beginning, and the love that binds its people together.

Topics: Africa

Published: Workman eBooks on
ISBN: 9781616201876
List price: $14.95
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Asked what Running the Rift is about, it would be too easy to say it is about the Rwandan genocide. You could also say it's about an Olympic runner. Both of these are correct, but neither really describe what this book is about at its core. I'd say, more than anything else, Benaron's novel is about character. It asks tough questions about morality, courage, honesty, and integrity.

Given the subject matter, I was hesitant to read this novel. I've read plenty of novels filled with the most horrific scenes pulled from history, but something about the genocide in Rwanda hit me hard. Perhaps it's because it happened in my lifetime. Perhaps my guilt for all my inaction toward issues of social justice is personified in the Western world's reaction to Rwanda. Regardless, I was hesitant to begin this novel, but I did, and I'm glad I made it over that initial fear.

Despite the horrifying events which take place in Running the Rift, Benaron somehow manages to keep the novel light. She doesn't do this by ignoring what happened, or sugar coating it; it seems she does this purely by giving the reader just enough information to know what is going on and peopling the book with characters who make it worth continuing on. This line Benaron walks so carefully displays her natural talents.

In this novel about character, characters are the novel's best quality and its biggest downfall. The characters we meet in Running the Rift are wonderful. I loved them. I loved them. I wanted to shoot the breeze with Jean Patrick. I wanted to be Daniel's best friend. I wanted to join sides with Roger. And I was all about asking Bea out for a date. These people are lovable and I wanted to know more about them than this story allowed. At the same time, the characters were perhaps a little too lovable. The faults they had—which were very few—could be justified given the time and place. The “good guys” were good. The “bad guys” were bad. I'd have loved to have seen more dynamic characters and some shifting loyalties.

Running the Rift is a spectacular novel. It is filled with gorgeous language and an unforgettable cast of characters. In spite of the graphic war scenes, it is a clean novel, a rare example of how grittiness can be portrayed accurately without an R-rating. It is a surprisingly enjoyable read and worthy winner of the Bellwether Prize.

I present Running the Rift with the Best Book of 2012 (so far) award.more
This is a story of the Rwandan genocide and a young boy/man who is so fleet of foot that there is every likelihood that he can be a contender in the Olympics. The problem for him was that he is Tutsi in a cold and cruel world dominated by the hatred of the Hutu and their obsession with ridding Rwanda and the world of all Tutsi.The book is beautifully written and is one that once began, is difficult to put down. I found it fascinating, wonderfully hypnotic and horrific all at once. Africa and books of and about it have long held a special place in my heart and this one is certainly no different.I rated it 4 1/2 stars and highly recommend it.more
For several years I've participated in"First Editions Club" at The Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. The store (which has at least on author reading/talk a day) selects a book each month (always a signed first edition) to send to participants. I love it because they select very interesting books, often by relatively unknown authors. Many of the books have gone on to receive importat literary prizes. Anyway, this month they sent "Running the Rift" which is right up there with they best selections they've made. I loved every minute of it plus it prompted me to find out more about the background to the horrific Rwandan genocide of the 1990's. Definitely a worthwhile read.more
The story of the Rwandan genocide is an important one that needs to be told and Naomi Benaron does that in Running the Rift. Although I was engaged in the story from beginning to end, I found myself wishing that she had used richer, more complex language and even though I could sympathize with her characters, I never felt intimately involved with them - I wish they had more depth.more
Read all 14 reviews

Reviews

Asked what Running the Rift is about, it would be too easy to say it is about the Rwandan genocide. You could also say it's about an Olympic runner. Both of these are correct, but neither really describe what this book is about at its core. I'd say, more than anything else, Benaron's novel is about character. It asks tough questions about morality, courage, honesty, and integrity.

Given the subject matter, I was hesitant to read this novel. I've read plenty of novels filled with the most horrific scenes pulled from history, but something about the genocide in Rwanda hit me hard. Perhaps it's because it happened in my lifetime. Perhaps my guilt for all my inaction toward issues of social justice is personified in the Western world's reaction to Rwanda. Regardless, I was hesitant to begin this novel, but I did, and I'm glad I made it over that initial fear.

Despite the horrifying events which take place in Running the Rift, Benaron somehow manages to keep the novel light. She doesn't do this by ignoring what happened, or sugar coating it; it seems she does this purely by giving the reader just enough information to know what is going on and peopling the book with characters who make it worth continuing on. This line Benaron walks so carefully displays her natural talents.

In this novel about character, characters are the novel's best quality and its biggest downfall. The characters we meet in Running the Rift are wonderful. I loved them. I loved them. I wanted to shoot the breeze with Jean Patrick. I wanted to be Daniel's best friend. I wanted to join sides with Roger. And I was all about asking Bea out for a date. These people are lovable and I wanted to know more about them than this story allowed. At the same time, the characters were perhaps a little too lovable. The faults they had—which were very few—could be justified given the time and place. The “good guys” were good. The “bad guys” were bad. I'd have loved to have seen more dynamic characters and some shifting loyalties.

Running the Rift is a spectacular novel. It is filled with gorgeous language and an unforgettable cast of characters. In spite of the graphic war scenes, it is a clean novel, a rare example of how grittiness can be portrayed accurately without an R-rating. It is a surprisingly enjoyable read and worthy winner of the Bellwether Prize.

I present Running the Rift with the Best Book of 2012 (so far) award.more
This is a story of the Rwandan genocide and a young boy/man who is so fleet of foot that there is every likelihood that he can be a contender in the Olympics. The problem for him was that he is Tutsi in a cold and cruel world dominated by the hatred of the Hutu and their obsession with ridding Rwanda and the world of all Tutsi.The book is beautifully written and is one that once began, is difficult to put down. I found it fascinating, wonderfully hypnotic and horrific all at once. Africa and books of and about it have long held a special place in my heart and this one is certainly no different.I rated it 4 1/2 stars and highly recommend it.more
For several years I've participated in"First Editions Club" at The Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. The store (which has at least on author reading/talk a day) selects a book each month (always a signed first edition) to send to participants. I love it because they select very interesting books, often by relatively unknown authors. Many of the books have gone on to receive importat literary prizes. Anyway, this month they sent "Running the Rift" which is right up there with they best selections they've made. I loved every minute of it plus it prompted me to find out more about the background to the horrific Rwandan genocide of the 1990's. Definitely a worthwhile read.more
The story of the Rwandan genocide is an important one that needs to be told and Naomi Benaron does that in Running the Rift. Although I was engaged in the story from beginning to end, I found myself wishing that she had used richer, more complex language and even though I could sympathize with her characters, I never felt intimately involved with them - I wish they had more depth.more
I am an occasional runner. I go through spurts when I am good about getting myself out on the road and putting in miles and other times when I can't motivate myself off the couch. But I have that luxury. Running is never going to substantially change my life, well aside from changing my general fitness level a hair. None of this is the case with the main character in Naomi Benaron's novel Running the Rift winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. He must literally run for his life.Jean Patrick Nkuba is a young boy Tutsi boy living in Rwanda when the novel opens. He likes to race against his older brother outside their home at the boarding school where their father is a teacher. But tragedy comes early to their family when their father is killed in a car accident. After ethnically motivated bullying, Jean Patrick's mother moves the family to her brother's home sooner than planned and away from the school. Jean Patrick and his siblings know that they will have to work harder and be smarter than their Hutu peers in order to go back to the school on a scholarship and have a chance in life. In Jean Patrick's case, not only is he very smart and driven, he is also a very gifted runner whose talents on the track will ultimately carry his Tutsi family, friends, and neighbors' dreams on his back.As the ethnic violence escalates, Jean Patrick is somewhat protected by his elite athletic status having qualified for the Olympic trials and been given a falsified Hutu identity card by his coach. Jean Patrick is not only driven to run, it literally carries him above the horror played out all over the country. But it can only save him for so long. As he trains hard and tries to shut out the reality of life for his own ethnic minority, he entrusts his coach with his safety and indeed his very life. Jean Patrick's drive and desire, his training regimen even in the face of greater and tighter restrictions, and the politicizing of sport all wind through the narrative no matter what evils overtake the rest of Rwandan society. And it's on a training run that he catches sight of the captivating Bea and meets her Hutu family who risk their own safety to speak out against the killings, a chance meeting that will forever change the trajectory of his life. As he falls in love with Bea, he thinks that he must decide whether his destiny is with her or in his dream of the Olympic track but in fact, there will be no choice. Instead, he will have to run to escape in order to survive and to eventually bear witness to the atrocities.Benaron has done a good job showing how neighbor can suddenly turn against neighbor and how hatred can grow and consume everything in its path, leaving no one untouched. It translates the impersonality of numbers (over 800,000 people are estimated to have been killed) into the deeply personal tale of one gifted young man and the family and people he loved, showing what genocide means on a micro-level and allowing the reader to feel a kick to the gut in a way that abstract numbers do not inspire. The rising tension as the book progresses is masterful as Jean Patrick doesn't yet seem to understand he is running the race of his life in trying to become an Olympian before full scale bloodshed breaks out. The politics and history behind the 1994 genocide is well researched and well-presented through the use of secondary characters so that it is always fully integrated into the novel. Jean Patrick himself was a naive character and that was occasionally frustrating given the clear and obvious view of what was coming. Not always an easy read (although much of the graphic violence occurs off the page), this is an important look at evil and the slowness of healing in its wake.more
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