Friday, April 30, 2010

Excellent Book to Read

The blogger is a regular and frequent user of the Fairfax County Library System. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the blogger is thrifty. Unless a book is very inexpensive (or better - free on loan), the blogger struggles with paying full price.  Second, the blogger does not like clutter. So unless a book is worth keeping, it goes out of the house. And third, the blogger has found that there are very few books worth rereading.

However, some of them DO hold up over time. The P.G. Wodehouse books, Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series, and P.D. James are good examples. But most books that have been published in the last ten years or so are a one-time read and then "good-bye!"

That's why the book sale is so great. While there, the blogger located an Advanced Reading Copy of Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin and grabbed it. It cost ONE WHOLE DOLLAR!

Having just finished reading it, the blogger can say that it was, hands down, the best book she has read in 2010. And it is worth keeping.

The setting of the book is in Kigali, Rwanda, where many people from different countries have come to help Rwanda on the path to reconciliation after the terrible genocide. The central character, Angel, bakes cakes for all kinds of people who are celebrating all kinds of special occasions. Angel and her husband Pius, a university professor, are Tanzanian, and the parents of their five grandchildren whose parents are deceased. The way Angel mothers the children, and everyone else who crosses her path, is amazingly compassionate, yet not the least bit over-indulgent.  Rather than judging people who are different from her, Angel personifies love, even as she struggles to understand the differences.

The two non-human characters that shape this book are the genocide of 1994 and AIDS. The genocide is a backdrop for the situations Angel's customers and neighbors find themselves in, and "the virus" is the unspoken fear of Angel and Pius, and of all who live around them. The fear forms a curtain which finally must be pushed aside as people seek to re-establish the basic values of humanity. Author Gaile Parkin weaves these themes throughout Angel's interactions with her customers and friends, always focusing on the hope.  She does it so beautifully that the blogger had tears in her eyes from laughter, sorrow, and joy.

This book is a keeper AND one you want to loan, so when you come to the Fall Book Sale looking for it (September 22-26), grab a copy for a friend too.

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