THE KEY TO MY NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE by Elizabeth Neuffer
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THE KEY TO MY NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE

Searching for Justice in Rwanda and Bosnia
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The bigger the crime, the slower the justice. If the crime is mass murder, this well-crafted title hints, then justice can move at a glacial pace.

Boston Globe foreign correspondent Neuffer drew what for a journalist is a plum assignment: covering the ethnic/civil war in Bosnia in the early 1990s; later, spurred by a colleague’s offhand remark, she added Rwanda, another hellish locale of ethnically fueled violence, to her tour of duty. Here, she revisits those scenes, describing in close detail the ugly wars that broke out in once-quiet places where members of different ethnic groups had long coexisted, more or less peacefully; as she does, she identifies the various social engines and individual actors—Slobodan Milosevic, Theoneste Bagasora, Ratko Mladic, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, et al.—responsible for the genocide that killed or displaced millions of Bosnian Muslims and Rwandan Tutsi. In her careful explication, Neuffer writes as if the reader may have never heard of these formerly obscure locales or persons; because she takes nothing for granted, and is so thorough a narrator, her study is likely to have a long shelf life and be useful to readers for many years. It may take that long, in any case, for some of the principal villains to receive their just deserts. Neuffer suggests, as she recounts the slow process of updating the Geneva Convention and other international accords to accommodate modern savageries, such as wide-scale rape: even today, she writes, “In international humanitarian law . . . there is no specific name given to acts of systematic rape”—and the wanton destruction of whole towns and villages. Throughout, Neuffer decries the fact that the international powers, and especially the US, were so slow to act to stop the slaughter, and she concludes, regretfully, that “there is no one explanation for evil and no one form of justice to combat it,” adding that the world will have to keep trying all the same.

A tremendously valuable comparative study, with all its shameful conclusions in place.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-26126-8
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2001




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