One Thousand Hills by James Roy and Noel Zihabamwe
Published by Omnibus Books
This is a powerful story of 10 year old Pascal retelling the few days of his life leading up to and during the unspeakable horrors of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. He tells his story to a psychologist over a week of lunchtimes at school 5 years later. It is clear from the conversation between the psychologist and Pascal, that the events of the past are affecting his adjustment to life. He has smashed another boy's head into a locker and therefore these daily meetings are prescribed by the school principal.
Despite the threatening menace that hovers over the telling of Pascal's story, it begins as a love story to the old Rwanda: Pascal’s innocent childhood days playing with friends, attending school, tending chores, avoiding his annoying siblings and obeying (mostly) his loving parents in the village of Agabande. The church is a revered and a pivotal element in their lives, which makes the events of this story even more gut-wrenching.
What happened to Pascal is something that no child, in fact no person, should ever have to speak about, because it should never have happened. As Pascal says to the psychologist:
“... none of it made any sense, not even to the people who were there! It made no sense at all..."
Pascal’s relationship with the psychologist is well drawn, at times angsty, at times compliant, always revealing - the boy comes across wiser than the man.
"...the whole world sat by and watched. [the psychologist]
Did nothing [Pascal]
Yes. Did nothing. Which was terrible.
That's one word for it.
What word would you use?
I don't think there are any words."
The technique of alternating interview and Pascal’s recount allows the reader to distance for breathing space and processing. It also hooks the reader in to what otherwise might have been a slow beginning.
One Thousand Hills is beautifully and insightfully co-authored by Roy and Zihabamwe, the latter having lived through the events of 1994 in Rwanda. This was a hard book to read as an adult, knowing what was to come. The themes in this book are challenging, the events described are horrific, and although Roy and Zihabamwe tread carefully through the horror it is hard not to be chilled and sickened. Because that is how it was.
To Roy and Zihabamwe - Thank you for finding the words. This is a beautifully written and important book, telling about the Rwandan genocide. You cannot be but moved.
CKT Book Reviewer
Authors: Roy, James and Zihabamwe, Noel
Title: One Thousand Hills
Publisher: Omnibus Books
Published: March 2016