Sunday, April 12, 2009

As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson

As We Forgive

As We Forgive
by Catherine Claire Larson

Trade Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Buy from Amazon

Source: review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
If you were told that a murderer was to be released into your neighborhood, how would you feel? But what if it weren't only one, but thousands?

Could there be a common roadmap to reconciliation? Could there be a shared future after unthinkable evil? If forgiveness is possible after the slaughter of nearly a million in a hundred days in Rwanda, then today, more than ever, we owe it to humanity to explore how one country is addressing perceptual, social-psychological, and spiritual dimensions to achieve a more lasting peace. If forgiveness is possible after genocide, then perhaps there is hope for the comparably smaller rifts that plague our relationships, our communities, and our nation.

Based on personal interviews and thorough research, As We Forgive returns to the boundary lines of genocide's wounds and traces the route of reconciliation in the lives of Rwandans--victims, widows, orphans, and perpetrators--whose past and future intersect. We find in these stories how suffering, memory, and identity set up roadblocks to forgiveness, while mediation, truth-telling, restitution, and interdependence creates bridges to healing.

As We Forgive explores the pain, the mystery, and the hope through seven compelling stories of those who have made this journey toward reconciliation. The result is a narrative that breathes with humanity and is as haunting as it is hopeful.

This book tells seven personal stories of experiences during the genocide, its aftermath, and how they came to forgiveness. These accounts are intense, vivid, and powerful. The people in these stories came from different areas and had different experiences, giving the reader a good idea of what happened during the genocide and afterward. The book is worth reading for these stories alone.

The narratives effectively show the struggle of how to forgive and gain peace. However, after each story, the author also comments on various methods of forgiveness and reconciliation and on restorative justice. To me, those comments felt distant and clinical in contrast to the intensely intimate view of pain and forgiveness given in the narrative. Except for one chart/argument given by the author in the first section (which I felt tried to make a complex subject too simplistic and neat), the information she gives is useful and relevant. This information is geared toward anyone, no matter their religion (or lack of one).

Though the author doesn't focus on Christian principles of forgiveness, the Rwandans described in these accounts are Christians or become Christians and this is what allows them to forgive.

The violence described during the genocide is not explicit or gory in detail, though it is still heart-rending at times. I'd recommend this powerful book to anyone struggling with forgiveness or who wants to know more about the Rwandan genocide and what's happening there now.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
Cadeaux's eyes laughed. A grin flickered across her face and settled into a slight smile as she went to fetch water. Leaning over the bucket, Cadeaux splashed water on her cheeks, not noticing the dark beauty shimmering back at her. With a block of soap, she scrubbed her neck, her arms, her legs, her feet, and finally her sandals while her slender shadow bowed beneath Rwanda's fierce August sun. At the age of twelve, she was on the cusp of womanhood, but still had the frame of a child and a sheen of innocence.

Her sandaled feet skimmed along the path as she returned home. Were it not for the vividness of the yellow jacaranda trees, the seamless blue skies, and Cadeaux's swishing lavender skirt, the road, the homes, and the roofs would have seemed a still life in sepia.

Back home, Cadeaux broke a deep silence with her soft footfalls and the creak of a door latch. Inside, her mother, Rosaria, had been going about her daily chores cloaked with an air of solemn dignity, wearing her sorrow like holy garments. A crushed hand hung like prayer breads loosely at her side.

Rosaria's eyes lit on Cadeaux as she flitted past. Somehow, the saturated air felt less stifling with her there. Rosaria breathed more freely. More than bread or wine or water, Cadeaux seemed to her mother a sacrament--a visible sign of inward grace. The name Rosaria gave her had this ripeness of meaning. Born in December of 1994, nine months and four days after horror's opening night, Cadeaux is her mother's consolation, her laughter, and her hope. Her name means "gift," because, as Rosaria will tell you, "She was the only gift I had left."

No comments: