Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness
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Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  8,859 ratings  ·  1,407 reviews
In Strength in What Remains, Tracy Kidder gives us the story of one man’s inspiring American journey and of the ordinary people who helped him, providing brilliant testament to the power of second chances. Deo arrives in the United States from Burundi in search of a new life. Having survived a civil war and genocide, he lands at JFK airport with two hundred dollars, no Eng...more
Hardcover, 277 pages
Published August 25th 2009 by Random House (NY) (first published February 29th 2000)
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Anna
Fabulous, moving and complex-- it takes you between NYC and Burundi and Rwanda through the life of Deo, who was medical student when the massacres of Tutsis began in Burundi (Oct 1993- about 6 months before the genocide in Rwanda). It is not easy to describe this book, but Tracy Kidder with his usual understated gift manages to allow us to begin to enter the unimaginable world of Deo, in ways that don't ever reduce anything to simple. It is a must read if you care about being human, and maintain...more
Nicole
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I normally love Tracy Kidder books. And this book had an incredibly compelling story to tell, about a man who escapes genocide in Burundi and amazingly goes on to complete his education and even return to Africa to help rebuild his country.

Yet somehow the author keeps getting in the way of the story. At first, describing the main character's journey to America, he is a little condescending, making Deo seem a little simple when in reality he is a bi-li...more
Chrissie
Where are we today at the beginning of the 21st Century? Where are we headed? I have been reading books that focus on ethnic cleansing and genocide. It seems to me there is more and more of this with each year that passes. What does this say about the way the world is run today? How do different books tackle these questions? When The Stars Fall To Earth was very good, albeit simple, but with an important message. It was fiction. It dealt with the problems that continue today in Darfur. I kept th...more
Michael
Despite the awkward title (a quote from Wordsworth) this is a great book about good and evil, even better than "Mountains beyond Mountains," although it is in way a sequel to Kidder's essay on Dr. Paul Farmer, the man who single-handedly took on tuberculosis and the World Health Organization.

The tale of Deo, a survivor of tbe Burundi holocaust (a lesser-known adjunct to the Rwanda slaughter), is more accessible as Deo, a medical student refugee, is (at first) less heroic than Dr. Farmer, Deo is...more
Meri
It's not easy to write an effective genocide memoir. At first, it shocks and moves the reader to see people turn on each other, bodies burned, and children slaughtered. As the bodies start piling up, we start feeling numb and removed from the violence, which seems cartoonish at a certain point.

Tracy Kidder takes a different approach by starting the story in the middle, as Deo is leaving Burundi. We suffer with Deo as he struggles to find his feet as a penniless illegal immigrant in New York wit...more
Michael
Kidder is considered the master of non-fictional narrative. He lets his subjects tell their own story, in effect crafting their autobiography. In this case, his subject is Deo, a medical student who survived the bloodbaths of the Burundi and Rwanda and makes it to America only to face a prolonged period of challenges in surviving in Harlem. Yet, with timely help from key people along his way, he gains an education and ends up doing public health work with Paul Farmer's Partners in Health organiz...more
Clif Brittain
I have read most of what Kidder has written, and this is my least favorite of his books. The others I could have read purely for the subject matter or because I love the way he writes. My favorites include House, Among Schoolchildren, and The Soul of a New Machine because they satisfy both cravings. I liked Mountains Beyond Mountains because it gave me so much new information far outside my normal interests.

This book did not hold as much fascination for me. It is really two books, one about the...more
Walter
Tracy Kidder's Strength in What Remains is a compelling and compellingly-told story, certainly worthy of any reader's effort, but, in the end, somewhat incomplete or vaguely disappointing. Simply put, the story ends too soon and we never quite find out what his protagonist accomplishes relative to his new life vision. (We leave him as he's just begun to attempt it, which feels premature after the significant and moving ground that we have covered with him to that point.)

The subject/hero of this...more
Tatiana
I'm about 4/5 of the way through this book, and I wanted to record my impressions. I love this book. It's heartbreakingly sad but also enheartening and healing, in some inexplicable way. I love Deo, the person whose story this is.

I've felt since the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi that my understanding of and response to this episode was pathetically inadequate. I know that that particular time and place was not special or odd. Things like that can happen anywhere, anytime. A few of the factors...more
Kristen
"Let's put this tragedy behind us, because remembering is not going to benefit anyone."

An ironic last line of a book that is itself a memoir of the painful, nearly indescribable tragedy of genocide in Burundi. I say "nearly indescribable" because Tracy Kidder accomplishes what must have seemed impossible at the outset; he constructed a word picture of hell. Kidder begins the story in 1994 where Deo had just arrived in New York after fleeing Burundi and then slowly reveals Deo's history of growi...more
Marcy
Tracy Kidder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is one of my favorite authors! After reading Mountains Upon Mountains about one of my heroes, Paul Farmer, I couldn't wait to read Strength in What Remains. I was not disappointed!

Deo is a Burundian refugee, arriving in the United States. Through flashbacks, the reader begins to understand the horror that Deo underwent as a Tutsi in his country. As hatred once again grew to a high pitch among the Hutus and Tutsis in Deo's country, Deo started making m...more
Mag
When I opened the book, I wasn’t sure I was prepared for yet one more story of flight from genocide in Africa, but before I knew it, I was deeply involved in the life of Deo, a young medical intern who fled Burundi during the ethnic massacre in the country posing as a coffee trader. He found himself in New York with $200 in his pocket, no language apart from fluent French and no contacts. After going through immigration, and arousing sympathy from a baggage handler from Senegal, he lived with hi...more
K
This started out as a solid 3-star book but slid down to 2 during the second half. Basically, I agree with the goodreads reviewer who said this would have worked better as a New Yorker article than it did as a full-length book.

This non-fiction book recounts the story of Deo, a young man who grew up as a Tutsi in Burundi and began attending medical school only to have his life torn apart by the war and genocide ripping his country. Against staggering odds, Deo managed to survive and fly to Americ...more
Tom
Another remarkable book from Tracy Kidder in his distinct genre; part biography, part anthropology. This is an amazing story of a young Burundian (Deo) who arrives in New York city in 1994 with no money and no English and not only makes his way, with the help of a number of people, but finishes university and then begins medical school, before returning to the scene of the massacres in Burundi and Rwanda to build a medical clinic.
One of the most memorable occurrences described in the book took...more
Kdevoli
A truly inspiring book about a young medical student named Deo who lives in Burundi (adjacent to Rwanda) in the 1990's who gets caught up in the civil war between Tutsis and Hutus and needs to escape for his life after the president is assinated. He literally needs to run out of the hospital where he is treating patients to escape machete-wielding madmen. His months on the run are harrowing, but eventually a wealthy friend with ties to America gets him a fake work visa, and he is able to come to...more
Erin
This book involves a young doctor's escape from the civil war/ethnic cleansing in Burindi, which borders Rwanda. The genocide in Burindi had many of the same factors as the Rwandan genocide -- Hutus vs. Tutsis. It was definitely an interesting read -- the protagonist Deo was a resident at a rural hospital when the fighting broke out, and barely managed to escape before making it to New York. The book focuses on his arrival in New York, and how he made it to college and then American medical scho...more
Kathrina
This is a riveting account of one young man’s flight from the violent chaos of genocide in his home country of Burundi, his abrupt introduction to the unjust social system of New York City, and the resilience of his character that allowed him to rise above his circumstance, finally returning to Burundi to found the country’s first non-profit medical clinic. The first 2/3 of the book is seen through Deo’s eyes -- the horror of sudden and incomprehensible violence, the blind flight for safety, the...more
Mikey B.
A very strong rendition of the genocide in Berundi and Rwanda based on the personal experience of a victim (Deo).

The book is divided into two sections. The later portion is more powerful – it dwells on the events in Berundi and Rwanda during and after the genocide in 1993-94. It also explains in more detail the background of the New Yorker’s who helped Deo upon his arrival in New York City – basically ‘fresh off the boat’.

The first half of the book centers mostly on Deo’s struggles as a penniles...more
Linda
In this book Tracy Kidder chronicles the path of Deo, a young man studying pre-med in Burundi at the beginning of the Rwandian genocide. Through miracle after miracle, Deo escapes massacre, eventually finding himself in New York, where he befriended by a woman working at St. Thomas More, Sharon McKenna, and a couple from Greenwich Village, Charlie and Nancy Wolfe. Deo learns English by studying at the New York Public Library and working at low-end jobs such as delivering groceries. After graduat...more
Andrew Ludke
Completely ignorant of the ruthless hate in the whispers he hears from his neighbors in Burundi, Deo is caught completely off guard as he witnesses the slaughter of his friends and family at the start of the Genocide. Who can you trust if you don't even know who's a Tutsi or a Hutu. The only safe course is to run and hide. Through the generosity and support of a few strangers Deo, a sheep herder and medical student at the only medical college in the country, escapes the genocidal madness only to...more
Joan
I could not put this book down. Kidder takes the title of this inspiring tale from the words of William Wordsworth. It is an amazing, true story of a young man, Deogratias (or Deo), who is displaced by the genocide and civil war in his country, Barundi. He was a medical student in 1994 when the fighting forced him to flee. He was lucky to have the help of a fellow medical student, who provided him with a plane ticket to NY. He arrived knowing no English (his medical education had been conducted...more
Chandra
I keep saying that I'm going to cut myself off from reading more books about escape from genocide in Africa, but then I am always reminded of how fortunate I am that for me they are books I can put down or not read at all, not a reality I had to endure, full of haunting memories. This is an extraordinarily well told tale of Deo, who escaped from the genocide of Burundi and Rwanda to the slums of New York, where, through perseverance and the kindness of strangers, he came to fulfill his dream of...more
Joel
Strength in What Remains tells the true story of a young man named Deo, who flees from his home country and tries to re-establish his life as a refugee in New York City. Burundi, a tiny African nation bordering Rwanda, was engulfed in violence in the 1990s when a Hutu politician was murdered by members of the Tutsi-controlled military, setting off a chain reaction of mob violence and brutal military crackdowns that eventually spilled over into Rwanda.

Deo was a medical student in Burundi's only m...more
Ellyn
This fabulous book tells the story of Deo, a young medical student who survives genocide and war in Burundi and escapes, only to find himself struggling to make it from day to day on the streets of New York City. The book begins with Deo's arrival and early months in New York. Little by little, the author goes back in time to reveal first Deo's childhood and adolescent years in Burundi, spent in a typical family in a typical village, his high school and medical school years, and ultimately, his...more
Laura
The more I think about this book, the more I realize what a great book it was.

The storytelling in the first two-thirds or so was amazing. I love the way the New York narrative was told: the toggling between two continents and two eras was disorienting, in a way that shadowed Deo's own experiences re-living his trauma after fleeing Burundi. Although the last third of the story, when Deo returns to Burundi, doesn't have the same page-turning intensity of Deo's flight from Burundi to Rwanda back to...more
Marsha
This book was eye-opening and amazing on several levels. It is the true story of Deo, a Burundian Tutsi, who was caught in the ethnic violence/massacres between Hutus and Tutsis while he was a third year medical student in Burundi. Through serendipity, he managed to escape to New York City where he lived in Central Park for several years, earning $15 a day as a grocery deliveryman. While delivering groceries, he met a woman who took on his cause. She found a couple who practically adopted Deo. T...more
Mary
Once again, Tracy Kidder has done what he does so well - provided a world of information and a host of questions that need to be thought about, by telling the compelling story of one amazing individual. Deogratias is a survivor of an impoverished childhood in rural Burundi, ethnic massacres in both Burundi and Rwanda, and homeless poverty in New York. He was a third year medical student in Burundi when he was forced to hide and flee for months. Although fluent in French he knew no English when h...more
Meagan
This book tells the story of a young medical student from Burundi who became caught up in the genocide there and in Rwanda. He managed to survive the initial violence and then fled the country to New York, where he lived in an abandoned tenement, occasionally slept in Central Park, and delivered groceries for $15 per 12-hour shift (plus tips, when he could bring himself to accept them). He was eventually befriended by an ex-nun, and artist and a professor, which gave him the means to pursue citi...more
Marie
It is story of an African refugee, Deo and his struggles, both in America and his native country of Burundi. I was glad I read this following Man's Search for Meaning as it recomfirmed that when man is faced with the most unimaginable atrocities of human creation he still has the ability to choose how he will react. His story showed the best and worst of humanity. Unfortunately his story was all too familiar, whether it is set in Africa, Guatemala or Nazi Germany. Are we fated to keep repeating...more
Mary
As (almost) always, I love how Kidder writes. It was fascinating to see how he told the story of Deogratias, a refugee in New York City who'd escaped a civil war/genocide in Burundi. We start the story with Kidder accompanying Deo as Deo returns to his home town. Kidder never allows us to forget that we are seeing Deo through Kidder's eyes, which makes for an honest story while providing an interpretation, through modern American eyes, of the man Kidder has come to know.

It's as close as most of...more
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Tracy Kidder is an American author and Vietnam War veteran. Kidder may be best known, especially within the computing community, for his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Soul of a New Machine, an account of the development of Data General's Eclipse/MV minicomputer. The book typifies his distinctive style of research. He began following the project at its inception and, in addition to interviews, spent c...more
More about Tracy Kidder...
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World The Soul of a New Machine Among Schoolchildren House Home Town

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