A medical student flees genocide in Burundi to New York City

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder“Strength in What Remains is the story of Deogratias,” as the author writes (more succinctly than I could) in a post on Amazon.com, “a young man from the central African nation of Burundi. In 1993, through no fault of his own, he was forced onto a terrifying journey, a journey that split his life in two. First he made a six-months-long escape, on foot, from ethnic violence in Burundi and from genocide in Rwanda. Then, in a strange twist of fate, he was, as it were, transported to New York City, where it sometimes seemed that his travails had only just begun.”


Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness by Tracy Kidder

@@@@@ (5 out of 5)


Deo, as he is called, was a medical student in Burundi when the genocidal campaign was launched. He fled on foot for hundreds of miles through the bloodcurdling upheaval of both Burundi and Rwanda and eventually arrived in New York, penniless, friendless, and hungry. Kidder relates Deo’s story both before and after his escape from the violence in East Africa, through an Ivy League education at university and medical school to his current work building a medical clinic in his homeland, a disciple of the famed Dr. Paul Farmer (the subject of Kidder’s next book).

Tracy Kidder is one of America’s most accomplished nonfiction writers. He has won most of the major awards that writers can receive. I was first attracted to his work two decades ago through The Soul of a New Machine, his now-classic look at the fast-changing computer industry, which was an extraordinary experience for me. Kidder seems to write where his instincts take him, covering such diverse topics as his home town and building a house to the exotic stories of Deo and Paul Farmer. Everything of Kidder’s that I’ve read has been rewarding. I recommend Strength in What Remains for the sheer humanity of its subject — and its author.

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For links to my reviews of other excellent biographies, go to Great biographies I’ve reviewed: my 10 favorites.

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