Monday, December 12, 2016

BAKING CAKES IN KIGALI, a pleasure to read about Rwanda in a fun and engrossing vein


$16.00 trade paper, available now

Rating: 3.5* of five

2016 Comment: I can't figure people out...this book is a pleasure to read, offers revealing and touching and amusing comments on the reality of growing older in an era of chaotic change that I can't imagine NOT being of interest to a very wide readership and yet..nothing! It's a lovely story. Seek one out, give it a try, this is good stuff here.

The Publisher Says: Once in a great while a debut novelist comes along who dazzles us with rare eloquence and humanity, who takes us to bold new places and into previously unimaginable lives. Gaile Parkin is just such a talent—and Baking Cakes in Kigali is just such a novel. This gloriously written tale—set in modern-day Rwanda—introduces one of the most singular and engaging characters in recent fiction: Angel Tungaraza—mother, cake baker, keeper of secrets—a woman living on the edge of chaos, finding ways to transform lives, weave magic, and create hope amid the madness swirling all around her.

In Kigali, Angel runs a bustling business: baking cakes for all occasions—cakes filled with vibrant color, buttery richness, and, most of all, a sense of hope only Angel can deliver.…A CIA agent’s wife seeks the perfect holiday cake but walks away with something far sweeter…a former boy-soldier orders an engagement cake, then, between sips of tea, shares an enthralling story…weary human rights workers…lovesick limo drivers. Amid this cacophony of native tongues, love affairs, and confessions, Angel’s kitchen is an oasis where people tell their secrets, where hope abounds and help awaits.

In this unlikely place, in the heart of Rwanda, unexpected things are beginning to happen: A most unusual wedding is planned…a heartbreaking mystery—involving Angel’s own family—unravels…and extraordinary connections are being made among the men and women who have tasted Angel’s beautiful cakes…as a chain of events unfolds that will change Angel’s life—and the lives of those around her—in the most astonishing ways.

My Review: This book should have been a shoo-in for the bestseller lists. If the popularity of Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe books is any index to American willingness to embrace African women as heroes, I can think of no earthly reason this tome won't light up the charts.

I found Angel and her husband Pius to be entertaining companions. The five grandchildren they are raising in post-genocide Rwanda reflect the realities of life in Africa...orphans everywhere, no matter where you look, and only the very lucky have a place to go where they are loved and nurtured.

Angel and Pius should, by the lights of their Tanzanian upbringing, be preparing for their ascent into elderhood, being looked after by the children they carefully raised. The children are dead, and the elders are thrown back into parenthood. This central tragedy is the spine of the book.

It's not a tragedy to Angel, in the sense that she revels in the life of a society cake-supplier, something she began as a home-based business to support the grandkids and has become a passionate addiction. Angel is famous in Kigali for the creative splendor of her cakes, ordered by the best and the brightest of the city to commemorate the milestones of life. Angel gets to hear all the gossip worth hearing and involve herself in all the doings of her world.

The book is a sure-fire pleasure read for many, if not most, fans of domestic fiction. It's something that readers should make a point of browsing in the local bookery.

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