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Running the Rift

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3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,948 Ratings  ·  798 Reviews
Running the Rift follows the progress of Jean Patrick Nkuba from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life. A naturally gifted athlete, he sprints over the thousand hills of Rwanda and dreams of becoming his country’s first Olympic medal winner in track. But Jean Patrick is a Tutsi in a world that has become increasingly rest ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Algonquin Books (first published 2010)
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15th out of 59 books — 125 voters
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Goodreads First Reads
1st out of 5 books — 5 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Shannon
Jan 13, 2012 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my_favorites
Running the Rift is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's evocative, touching, heartbreaking and enlightening. There's much to love about this book:

The characters: The main character, Jean Patrick Nbuka, is a young man with a gift - a gift for running. He comes of age in a complicated time. As a Tutsi, he is labeled and categorized by a line drawn in the sand decades before his birth. The world around him is confusing, but Jean Patrick blocks out most of it by focusing on his drea
...more
Barb
Feb 02, 2016 Barb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Running The Rift" by Naomi Benaron is an incredible tribute to all who perished in the Rwanda genocide in the early 1990's while the world looked the other way. I picked it up because of the wonderful cover & a quick peek at the book synopsis. I read it basically in one sitting (ok, I was flat on my back sick) and was blown away by the moving story of Jean Patrick and his coming of age during the upheaval and horror of Rwanda. His dream was to make the Olympics - his reality was to slowly c ...more
Emily Crowe
I was awake very early this morning, courtesy of my dog Roxanne who needed to go outside around 5:00 a.m. At first I grumbled about it but then I realized that in fact she gave me the perfect opportunity to finish reading a riveting new book I'd picked up a couple of days ago called Running the Rift. It's Naomi Benaron's Bellwether Prize-winning debut novel, set in Rwanda in the 1990s. I'd been reading it in 100-page chunks but I didn't want to push through to the end last night when I was so sl ...more
Jill
Jan 10, 2012 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most atrocious acts in all of contemporary history was the systematic genocide of one of two ethnic groups in Rwanda – the Tutsi by the Hutu. Disturbingly, the western world stood by and did nothing as the borders were closed and innocent people – even young babies -- were savagely killed by hate-mongrels for…what?

Naomi Benaron’s Bellweather Prize novel brings us up close and personal to this episode in history through Jean Patrick Nkuba, a Tutsi teenager who is gifted through his ru
...more
Leslie Street
I keep going back and forth whether or not to give this book three or four stars. I have read several nonfiction books on the Rwandan genocide and I feel like that is getting in the way of my ability to evaluate this book as a work of fiction. In my opinion, the book reads a little dryly. The author tries to situate a fictional story within an accurate historical setting, and in my opinion, this makes all of the characters a little on dimensional. I think that it is hard to write fictional char ...more
Tania
Sep 12, 2014 Tania rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tania by: Adri
They banged along the muddy road, bodies sprawled across it: women naked from the waist down, a man with a single shoe, the other placed neatly beside him, two small children curled in an embrace. Littered belongings scattered in the wind, hung from tree limbs. Identity cards fluttered like dying butterflies.

This is a beautiful and touching book. I absolutely loved the author's descriptions. She paints extremely vivid pictures of places and people, and even the characters with a very small part
...more
Mikey B.
Aug 19, 2013 Mikey B. rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I have to go against the stream here as many reviewers have given glowing recommendations of this book. It is about the tragic events in Rwanda in 1994.

The book describes, through the characters, the fuse that led to the genocide. One does feel the tension and the animosities between the two groups (Tutsi and Hutu), but the author does well to portray that not all partook of this hatred. The main character is Jean Patrick who is a Tutsi and a talented runner who starts training for the Olympics.
...more
Elizabeth
i think benaron does a great job here of presenting rwanda's beauty and diversity. not just in its topography, but its people. she also has subtle criticisms of the west for not intervening when rwanda's genocide was clearly taking place.

the story follows the coming of age of jean patrick. he runs and is soon an olympic hopeful. This dream fuels his desire to see rwanda as nothing less than perfect. but rwanda is far from perfect.

jean patrick, at times, seems inexplicably naive, but i think this
...more
Amy Warrick
Mar 30, 2012 Amy Warrick rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

There ARE books I like, honest. This just isn't one of them. This book is YA masquerading as lit because it is about the Rwandan genocide, so we can't just write it off. I GET IT. But it reads like a writing assignment...the author has started with a schoolboy hero who is so naive that everybody keeps having to explain things to him - thus to us as well. (The dude kept getting his lunch money stolen, too, which kept driving me crazy 'cause I couldn't see the point.) And it takes 200 pages for a
...more
Bonnie Brody
Running the Rift begins in Rwanda in 1994 and takes the reader through 1998. It is the story of the horrific genocide that devastated the country and pitted neighbor against neighbor. It is also the story of individuals - their dreams, hopes and wreckage.

When the Belgians occupied Rwanda, they classified the people who spoke one language and shared one culture into two separate groups - the Hutus and the Tutsis. They did this by observing the physical characteristics of the people. The Tutsis te
...more
Sally
Jul 26, 2013 Sally rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-challenge
I just finished this book, which made me realize (yet again) what a suburban bubble I truly live in. In 1994, I was at home in Southern California with my 3 and 4 year old children, oblivious to the horrors that were happening on the other side of the world. I entered into this book with a feeling of shock and guilt for my naïveté at world situations.

Since then, I have traveled to Kenya and Uganda, but have seen these countries through the viewpoint of a muzungu (white person). Thus, I know that
...more
Susi
Sep 26, 2012 Susi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, novel, first-reads
Naomi Benaron takes on the formidable challenge of capturing the point of view of a character from a different culture and gender. This is no small feat, and by and large I got pulled into and convinced by the protagonist, Jean Patrick. I was also impressed by her pacing. Some other reviewers commented on how slowly the first two thirds felt, but to me it felt as if the writer were pacing her readers so they could finish the race; I consistently felt pulled along by the plot. We need to learn ab ...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 15, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember hearing on the news and reading in the papers about the genocide in Rawanda, the racial strife between the Hutus and the Tutsis, but I really didn't understand what was going on and I forgot a very important thing. Until this courageous book with the wonderful characters of Jean Patrick and his family. I didn't think about the people living there, normal families with dreams and hopes, living during this terrible time just trying to exist, find love and take care of their own. Thanks ...more
Pam
Feb 03, 2012 Pam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The genocide which took place in Rwanda is incredibly horrifying and graphic, and yet Naomi Benaron has an incredible gift of being able to soften the blow by introducing us to characters and lives that keep us enthralled and disturbed all at the same time. This book is riviting, and it provides the reader an inside view of a country experiencing a volatile and heinous time, yet all the while feeling deeply for the separation and anxiety that is caused merely by ones birthright.
Jill
Feb 18, 2012 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story is set against the horrific backdrop of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, when gangs of Hutus, sponsored by the government, murdered approximately 800,000 Tutsis (along with pro-peace Hutus labeled as traitors).

Rwanda had previously been a Belgian colony. While there were some differences between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes prior to that, the Belgians exacerbated them by insisting on separate ID cards and establishing a power divide between the Tutsi, who got most of the land and the power
...more
Jenny Shank
Jan 21, 2012 Jenny Shank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainme...

Running the Rift
Naomi Benaron
(Algonquin Books, $24.95)

A young Rwandan’s dream of running in the Olympics collides with his country’s inescapable turmoil in Naomi Benaron’s gripping first novel Running the Rift, which won the Bellwether Prize for fiction addressing “social justice.”

Some people might want to turn away after reading this set-up, which makes it sound like a novel that’s more good for you than it is enjoyable. But that isn’t the case. Benaron c
...more
Sherie
Jan 31, 2012 Sherie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere in the story, an uncle explains how the division between the Hutus and Tutsis began. The occupying country, Belgium, measured features (length of nose, size of torso, length of limbs, etc) and pronounced them two different people, thereby laying the groundwork for turning neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend.
Jean Patrick and his family go to live with his mother's brother when his father -a highly regarded educator- dies in an auto accident. Without the support of the educa
...more
Megan
Jan 23, 2012 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: human beings on planet Earth
Prior to reading this book, I didn’t really know about the 1994 Rwanda genocides. I would have been in fourth grade, and maybe we discussed it at some point, but I was basically naive to this history. The only thing I had to compare it with was the Jewish Holocaust. Certain descriptions towards the end of this novel gave me that same sick, hopeless, angry feeling I got when I visited the Holocaust museum in DC as a high-school senior. Images from the room of shoes and my experience in the boxcar ...more
Julia
Jan 10, 2012 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jean-Patrick Nkuba is a Tutsi boy growing up in rural Rwanda. He is a bright student and a gifted runner, fast enough to potentially qualify for the Olympics. He was named after an uncle who was killed in a 1973 massacre of the Tutsi people, but such violence between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples now seems long in the past.

The story takes place between 1984 and 1998. Over the years the tension gradually builds between the two groups as the Tutsi people become increasingly harrassed and the media i
...more
Tim Roast
Jul 08, 2013 Tim Roast rated it it was amazing
This is expert writing. There is an underlining tension throughout which keeps you on tenterhooks because the danger is ever-present.

The story is of Jean Patrick, a Rwandan runner. At the beginning it is 1984 and he is a young boy. His teacher father wishes him and his brothers and sisters goodbye before going on a journey, where he inevitably dies, in a car crash. Soon after the tensions between the Rwandan ethnic-groups, Hutu and oppressed Tutsi, of which Jean Patrick belongs, are introduced a
...more
Chris Blocker
Mar 05, 2012 Chris Blocker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Asked what Running the Rift is about, it would be too easy to say it is about the Rwandan genocide. You could also say it's about an Olympic runner. Both of these are correct, but neither really describe what this book is about at its core. I'd say, more than anything else, Benaron's novel is about character. It asks tough questions about morality, courage, honesty, and integrity.

Given the subject matter, I was hesitant to read this novel. I've read plenty of novels filled with the most horrific
...more
Erica Spangler
Jan 15, 2013 Erica Spangler rated it it was amazing
Book Review - Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron

BookinChico's Review

Rating: 5 shots of espresso (The Coffee Shakes)

Plot
Running the Rift follows the life of Jean Patrick, a track Olympic hopeful. Set during the tumultuous Rwanda in the midst of the Hutu and Tutsi racial wars. Jean Patrick lives among the tthe majority Hutu who are terrorizing and abusing the minority Tutsi people. The violence has escalated to the point where students are forming alliances for safety and some are forming gangs.

Jea
...more
Felice
Apr 01, 2012 Felice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Testimonies, historians, novels, movies, documentaries and especially the distance of time have all given us all a limited appreciation of the horrors of the Holocaust. Not being survivors how could we ever fully understand what it was like? What about the more recent holocausts and genocides? Who is telling those stories? Who is attempting to make us more aware, more understanding and more outraged about these atrocities? One person is first time novelist NaomiBenaron in her Bellwether Prize wi ...more
Grace
Jan 30, 2013 Grace rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
I found this book to be a very good read. It could also be considered a young adult novel but that does not at all take away from the message of this book or the enjoyment of reading it. It takes you through the school and university years of Jean Patrick as he dedicates himself to becoming an Olympic runner as his country, Rwanda, is experiencing devastating prejudice and violence towards his Tutsi heritage. Jean Patrick remains optimistic that Rwanda will come to it senses and see that it is o ...more
Anne
Aug 09, 2011 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A riveting tale about Nkuba Jean Patrick, a bright, trusting Rwandan boy; a Tutsi. His dream is to represent Rwanda and medal at the Olympics in track. Jean Patrick does not care for politics and does not understand the tensions between the Tutsi and Hutu. To him, they are all Rwandan. As he is preparing for the Olympics, the tensions between Tutsi and Hutu explode. Jean Patrick must literally run for his life. He is confused and confounded by those he considered friends. He is unsure who to tru ...more
Alison
Jan 10, 2013 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-read
This book taught me so much about the genocide that took place in Rawanda between the Hutu and the Tutsis. For this reason I am giving it 4 stars, but it needs a good editing, too long in many places, causing the story to slow and become bogged down (the main character is an Olympic hopeful in track who is anything but slow).

There is one scene that will forever haunt me between Jean Patrick and his coach. I will not discuss it here for fear of giving away the story, but suffice it to say that t
...more
Arisa Dizon
Sep 19, 2015 Arisa Dizon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Surprisingly heartbreaking, redemptive, passionate and romantic, Running the Rift tells the story of the inhumane Rwandan Genocide of 1994 through the eyes of a young athlete, Jean Patrick Nkuba. This book, despite the dark theme of racism and hatred managed to embody the strength of the human spirit and love for family, friends, neighbors and romantic interests. This book is really worth reading.
Libby Chester
Feb 22, 2016 Libby Chester rated it it was amazing
In "Running the Rift," Naomi Benaron writes about Jean Patrick Nkuba, a young man who comes of age in the spring of 1994, during the Rwandan genocide. Benaron begins with Jean Patrick's early childhood, as he races with his older brother Roger. Excelling in footraces, he begins to dream of becoming an Olympic champion, especially after the Olympic runner, Telesphore Dusabe, visits his school. Telesphore tells Jean Patrick, "Someday you will need to run as much as you need to breath." Throughout ...more
Mary Soderstrom
Apr 15, 2015 Mary Soderstrom rated it really liked it
The news yesterday was full of images from Nigeria, where people were marking the sad anniversary of the kidnapping of 132 girls and young women by Boko Haram a year ago. What is going on with fundamentalist groups is extremely hard for me to understand. The BBC recently did a piece on the Nigerian group, which gives some context. The aim is a caliphate where Sharia law rules, it seems. Everything Western should be forbidden.

But Muslims are not the only terrorists in the world, as witness Uganda
...more
Kathy
Aug 28, 2014 Kathy rated it really liked it
The book breaks my heart. A swell of emotions was a frequent experience while reading this novel. The murderous reign of the Hutus against the Tutsis in Rwanda in the 1980s is the tough topic, but told with humanity through the main character Jean Patrick, a young Tutsi man with his eye on running in the Olympics for the country. For those who like to learn through historical fiction. Also now I need to go back and watch Hotel Rwanda....I think it will mean more after reading this book. Not a li ...more
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Naomi Benaron won the 2010 Bellwether Prize for Fiction for her novel RUNNING THE RIFT, forthcoming from Algonquin books. She earned an MFA from Antioch University and an MS in earth sciences from Scripps Institute of Oceanography. She teaches online through UCLA Extension Writers' Program and the Afghan Women's Writing Project. An advocate for African refugees in her community, she has worked ext ...more
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