Strength in What Remains

Kidder, Tracy. Strength in What Remains. Read by the author. New York: Books on Tape, 2009.

Reason read: okay, so this is a stretch. Tracy Kidder is from Northampton, Massachusetts. In February 1995 I moved from New Jersey to Easthampton. In February 2002 I moved up to Northampton. (Again in a different February I moved to Chicopee but that is another story for another time.) So, in honor of the second move, moving to Northampton in February (2002), I’m reading Kidder.

This is the remarkable story of Deo, a man who survived the horrific violence of 1993 in not only Burundi but Rwanda as well. Trying to escape the political upheaval between Tutsi and Hutu, Deo fled into Rwanda only to find infighting and ethnic cleansing there as well. Finally, with $200 to his name he was able to escape to New York City where he found work as a grocery delivery boy. Earning only $15 a day he lived in Central Park to make ends meet. It was after he delivered groceries to a nun when Deo’s life drastically changed. Through her generosity Deo was able to meet a middle aged couple who essentially took him in as their own; a quasi-adoption, if you will (his parents had survived the genocide so he was not a legal orphan). They gave him a place to live but more importantly, once they found out he had been a medical student in Burundi they helped put him through school at Columbia, majoring in biochemistry and philosophy. Remarkable, considering he didn’t have a green card or visa of any kind. What’s even more remarkable is that Deo not only went on to become a doctor, but he found forgiveness and went back to his homeland to start a clinic.

I liked Kidder’s direct, never-wavering sense of storytelling. Compared to Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, Kidder maintains a linear language and nothing is off-topic. It’s as if he knows he is limited to only so many words to tell the story and he doesn’t want to waste a single one on superfluous detail.

Author fact: One of Kidder’s favorite poems is Wordsworth’s “Ode to Intimations of Immortality” and used a line from that poem for the title of his book.

Book trivia: this is the first audio I have listened to that is read by the author.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 7).
Note: Throughout Book Lust To Go Pearl includes links to videos of interviews she conducted with certain authors. I decided to wait until I was reading the book to watch that author’s interview. Big mistake. The URL no longer works for Tracy Kidder so I thought the video no longer existed. The funny thing is, when I was first reading Book Lust To Go I questioned the practice of putting URLs in a book. First off, the link is cumbersome to type into a browser (When I couldn’t find the Kidder interview I was convinced I had typos in the URL.), and secondly links break and content often is removed.
UPDATED TO ADD: I contacted SeattleChannel and they confirmed, yes the Kidder video had been removed. Anything older than 2012 had been taken down (which would mean all Pearl interviews mentioned in Book Lust To Go). But. But! But, they graciously returned the video to the site and sent me the URL. It was a pleasure to watch. My favorite line from Kidder, “I’m jumping out a window and I don’t know what floor I’m on.” I LOVE that illustration of risk. I am grateful for the staff at SeattleChannel because they really came through for me.



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