Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Book Review: Baking Cakes in Kigali
Baking Cakes in Kigali (Bantam Books) by Gaile Parkin, is a wonderfully crafted story that takes place in the east African country of Rwanda.
Angel Tungaraza, is serious about the business she conducts in her home, baking cakes. To Angel, beautiful cakes are essential ingredients for celebrations. As she delves into the reason for the celebrations, she learns about her customers’ hopes, joys and sorrows.
Angel knows about sorrow. Both her adult children, a son and a daughter, have died and Angel and her husband Pius are raising their combined five grandchildren. As she balances her family’s life, Angel becomes entwined with her customers’ lives. We learn about the horror of Rwanda’s genocide and how it affected the people of Rwanda. During the genocide, the raping of women was a common occurrence, and along with that came widespread HIV/AIDS. The result of these horrific acts left shattered families and a society trying to carry on with the little they have left. Still, they strive to live with dignity.
As a huge fan of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, I found myself relating Angel’s ingenuity and cleverness to Precious Ramotswe. Baking Cakes in Kigali, however, has its own message, rhythm and compassion. It’s an extraordinary novel, full of laughs, tears and great satisfaction.
Author Gaile Parkin was born in Zambia and served as a VSO (Volunteer Service Overseas) in Rwanda at the new university doing a wide range of work with the recovering country. Evenings and weekends, Ms. Parkin worked with women and girls who were survivors of the genocide. Many of the incidences in Baking Cakes in Kigali were inspired by stories she was told.