Elegant and elegiac stories that speak to loss, redemption, and endless sorrow.

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IGIFU

A collection of thematically linked tales of Rwandan life in a time of ethnic conflict.

Originally published in French in 2010, these short stories partake of both fiction and memoir. The title story centers on a constant of refugee life, for Igifu is hunger personified, “given to us at birth like a cruel guardian angel.” Igifu is kept at bay only by food, of course, and while the parents of the Tutsi narrator did so with abundant milk, now the cows are dead, and, as in Mukasonga’s real life, “we’d been abandoned on the sterile soil of…Igifu’s kingdom.” Although starving, her mother worries that the neighbors will learn that they’ve been reduced to eating wild radishes, “no food for Tutsis,” though she’s not too proud to turn to those neighbors when the narrator faints from hunger and approaches the gates of death itself. Mukasonga then shifts genders, relating in a man’s voice the cultural realities of a people who measure wealth in cattle (and for whom “cattle stealing was nothing short of a sport”) but are reduced to the shameful condition of raising goats. In that story, which spans decades, a young cowherd grows to manhood in exile while his father finally saves enough to buy a cow‚ a trajectory interrupted by the next spasm of ethnic violence: “The genocide did not spare my father Kalisa, or my mother, or all my family, any more than the other Tutsis of Nyamata. I’ll never know what name he gave his one cow. I don’t want to know if the killers feasted on her.” In another story, a grown-up woman, beautiful, proud, and devoted to fine clothing and makeup, paints herself into an existential corner: The object of a French colonist’s desire until independence, then the mistress of a wealthy, politically powerful entrepreneur in Kigali, she becomes just another refugee, reduced to selling herself in the camps. Reminiscent at times of Iris Origo, Mukasonga writes with world-weary matter-of-factness, her stories understated testimonials to the worst of times.

Elegant and elegiac stories that speak to loss, redemption, and endless sorrow.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-939810-78-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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