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Running the Rift

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  6,923 ratings  ·  1,003 reviews
Running the Rift follows Jean Patrick Nkuba, a gifted Rwandan boy, from the day he knows that running will be his life to the moment he must run to save his life, a ten-year span in which his country is undone by the Hutu-Tutsi tensions. Born a Tutsi, he is thrust into a world where it's impossible to stay apolitical - where the man who used to sell you gifts for your fami ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Algonquin Books (first published 2010)
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Joan I think there was some sex but not too graphic.However, the violence is beyond description - it is about the Rwandan Crisis where the lake ran red wit…moreI think there was some sex but not too graphic.However, the violence is beyond description - it is about the Rwandan Crisis where the lake ran red with the blood and bodies of the violence due to hatred between the two tribes.(less)

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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  6,923 ratings  ·  1,003 reviews

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Jan 13, 2012 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
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
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
Jan 04, 2012 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 confr ...more
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inhumanity
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
Aug 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Amy Warrick
Mar 30, 2012 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
Oct 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nothing, absolutely nothing like the 1994 Rwandan Genocide must ever happen again.
That is all I can say for now.

I have found time and the words to write a review of this book. I just got to say, this was rough, rough as in the things that happen to Jean Patrick, his family and friends was really rough. I should have expected this because it's about the Rwandan Genocide but it caught me a bit off guard. I first picked this up because it said it was about an aspiring Olympic runner, and sin
Mikey B.
Aug 11, 2013 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.
Diane S ☔
Mar 12, 2012 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
Feb 18, 2016 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
Nov 12, 2012 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
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-forget
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
Jul 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: cultural
This is Fiction about a boy who dreams of being an Olympic athlete during the Rwandan genocide years.

I liked the historical side of this. It was definitely sad and tragic especially how people can hold themselves superior to others .... so much so, that they want to annihilate know, those who don't deserve to draw breath, including women, children and whole families and neighbors. Unfortunately, many nations have faced that same issue.

The writing though kind of made this a little
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
Dec 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jan 19, 2012 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.
Feb 18, 2012 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

I picked this book up because of what it's about--an Olympic-bound runner in Rwanda who lives through the 1994 genocide. I don't know enough about Rwanda, or Africa in general, and I've sort of stupidly steered clear of a lot of the books written about the genocide, in an attempt not to get incredibly angry and depressed. But this book won the Bellwether Prize, and it's about running, and I really needed to pull my britches up and read something about this. So.

It's a pretty long book, and I gues
Jenny Shank
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Tim Roast
Jul 08, 2013 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
Chris Blocker
Feb 24, 2012 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
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
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
Jan 31, 2012 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
Hallie Carl
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story of a young man during the Rwandan genocide of the mid 1990’s was well written and engrossing. Highly recommended
Erica Spangler
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Book Review - Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron

BookinChico's Review

Rating: 5 shots of espresso (The Coffee Shakes)

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.

Apr 01, 2012 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
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
Jan 30, 2013 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
Aug 09, 2011 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
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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

Articles featuring this book

A gifted Tutsi athlete dreams of competing in the Olympics in Running the Rift, a novel set during the years leading up to the 1994 genocide of an...
16 likes · 14 comments
“Your hope is the most beautiful and the saddest in the world.” 39 likes
“Wherever God spends the day, He comes home to sleep in Rwanda.” 3 likes
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