Strength In What Remains is another excellent book from Tracy Kidder. (Author of Mountains Beyond Mountains). Kidder sets out to pen the story of Deo, a medical student from Burundi. The story starts in Burundi where Deo grows up the son of a farmer and cow herder. He eventually matriculates to Medical School in the capital. Deo survives a civil war in Burundi by escaping to Rwanda only to find himself caught up in a genocide movement against Tutsis, of which he is one. He manages to make it back to Burundi and escapes the country with the help of a friend. Deo lives in NYC for a while. Homeless and without much of anything, he starts to eek out an existence delivering groceries. Through many acts of God later Deo finds himself enrolled at Columbia University. And only a few years later working with Paul Farmer at Partners in Health.
Its another great read from Kidder, but it doesn’t have quite the same feel as the Paul Farmer story. The end to this book is a lot more rooted in history; history of the region and history of the Hutu/Tutsi conflict, and at times felt as though I was reading more of a history book than a biography. But at the end the day, what is a biography other than a history book from the view point of a single person? With the conclusion of this book we are left with a bit more uncertainty that I remember at the end of Mountains Beyond Mountains. Uncertainty as to when Deo will finish medical school, uncertainty for the work that Deo is currently involved in, and general uncertainty of the future. The book, time line wise, ends about 18 months ago. But with all of this uncertainty, it is certainly a book well worth your time to read. (ha, wordplay)
And for those of you with a more JVC-Tanzania bent, Tanzania took in a lot of refugees from both the Burundi civil war and the Rwanda genocide that Kidder writes about. Tanzania is also not immune from similar ethnic struggles found in Burundi and Rwanda.