Vivid, boldly written, life-affirming historical fiction drawn from the horrors of the Rwandan genocide crisis.


A humanitarian doctor becomes embroiled in the Rwandan genocide.

Schafer (A Different Kind of Fire, 2018), “a retired family-practice physician,” plumbs the depths of the genocide in Rwanda with this rousing novel that follows Dr. Jessica Hemings, whose volunteer medical mission to the country in 1991 carries life-threatening danger. The story opens as Hemings races through the mountainous forests of Rwanda and Tanzania after her Kirehe clinic is ambushed by a vicious militia. In Rwanda, she horrifyingly views the slaughtered bodies of innocent villagers and vows justice. Running alongside this main narrative are the escapades of Parisian war correspondent Michel Fournier, who is assigned to cover the ethnic discord in Rwanda, a place he’s never visited. He has not experienced the volatile political climate there between the Hutu and Tutsi populations. Also featured is Hemings’ still-smitten ex, Tom, who discovers she has vanished in Africa. Not for the faint of heart, Schafer’s descriptions are graphic and as real as the political strife and civil war that played out in East Africa. Equally crisp is her storytelling as the narrative flashes back to Hemings’ uneasy arrival in Rwanda and her ensuing culture clash and political education, reflecting that “there was no escape from racism, even when only one race was involved.” After she notices the clinic’s lead physician, Dr. Cyprien Gatera, becoming neglectful to Tutsi patients, he is exposed as a Hutu radical and assaults and rapes Hemings, claiming her as his own. She escapes and remains on the run for weeks, as depicted in the novel's beginning, until reaching a Tanzanian refugee camp where she aids the ill and ultimately makes a decision to place herself in lethal danger again to save others. Though the book is lengthy and teeming with exacting, grim details, the story moves swiftly, portraying Hemings’ interactions with Fournier that become intimate. They empower her with the fortification to return to Africa after resettling in Philadelphia and concoct a reckless revenge plot against Gatera. There’s plenty of sharp, suspenseful action to savor here in this impressively poignant, hauntingly realistic, and searingly moving tale. Schafer intensively explores themes of racism, violence, war, and human welfare.

Vivid, boldly written, life-affirming historical fiction drawn from the horrors of the Rwandan genocide crisis.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64316-597-4

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Waldorf Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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