This was interesting. I had seen a movie about the genocide in Rwanda, but otherwise did not really know anything about it. I enjoyed that (even though it was third person), the first half of the book was from Deo's perspective and the second half gave more of the author's thoughts and evaluations. However, I did not think that Kidder was very generous in his portrayal of Deo (or maybe just not accurate?). Certainly he is a remarkable man; he spent six months on the run, saw thousands of murders, and then when he makes it to America has to deal with the issues of poverty and language barriers and still ends up at Columbia and ultimately back in medical school. He is also remarkable in that he is not a broken, bitter human being. He is friendly and outgoing, but I think when Kidder portrays him as innocent and timid he comes across more as a skittish cat then as a person. When Kidder describes Deo in his early days in New York and his relationship with Sharon and the Wolfs, especially when he is having dinner with them, he sounds like a petulant child; like a bored teenager, not like a refugee who is hoping for any kindness he can get.
There were two very thoughtful quotes that I want to preserve. The first is from Deo, the other's are Kidder's, but interesting thoughts from his survival: "history, even more than memory, distorts the present of the past by focusing on big events and making one forget that most people living in the present are otherwise preoccupied, that for them omens often don't exist."
"It was easy here to forget how to 'appreciate the moment', how to 'wait for the right time'. And this applied to the development of people. One shouldn't expect anyone to be complete at any given moment. Everyone was 'on a pilgrimage'."
"A lot of Western thought and psychological advice assume that it is healthy to flush out and dissect one's memories, and maybe this is true. And yet for all that, I began to have a simultaneous and opposite feeling: that there was such a thing as too much remembering, that too much of it could suffocate a person, and indeed a culture."