Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book Review - Baking Cakes in Kigali

I just read a wonderful book called Baking Cakes in Kigali. It was written by Gaile Parkin, published in 2009. Ms. Parkin was born in Zambia and has lived and worked in many different African countries. She has written textbooks and children’s books but this is her first novel for adults.

Baking Cakes in Kigali is set in present-day Rwanda. The main character is Angel Tungaraza, a native of Tanzania, who has moved to Kigali with her husband, Pius, and their five grandchildren. Angel runs her own business, baking and decorating cakes for all occasions. She is a “professional somebody” who puts a lot of thought and love into each cake she bakes. As she meets with potential customers, she always serves tea because the choosing of a cake is very important business and mustn’t be rushed. Angel has a way of inspiring confidences. She is a keeper of secrets. Through her encounters with others, we learn about some of the horrible things that haunt this African nation, including genocide and AIDS. Angel is able to help many of her friends with their problems, and by doing so, she is finally able to face up to her own family’s disturbing history.

How can a book be so charmingly written, yet deal with such devastating topics? I think it's a great way to learn a little about another culture. It reminded me a lot of The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency series. If Precious and Angel ever met, I’m sure they would become very good friends.

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