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Review: Small Country by Gail Faye

Title: Small Country
Author: Gael Faye
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 183
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)Burundi and Rwanda

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): "I was born with this story. It ran in my blood. I belong to it. 

Burundi, 1992. For ten-year-old Gabriel, life in his comfortable expatriate neighborhood of Bujumbura with his French father, Rwandan mother, and little sister, Ana, is something close to paradise. These are carefree days of laughter and adventure--sneaking Supermatch cigarettes and gorging on stolen mangoes--as he and his mischievous gang of friends transform the tiny street on which they live into their kingdom.

But dark clouds are gathering over this small country, and soon their peaceful existence will shatter when Burundi, and neighboring Rwanda, are brutally hit by civil war and genocide.

Review: I thought this book was a memoir until I finished it and looked at the cover only to discover that it is a novel! Given that the description of the author so closely fits that of the main character, I wonder how much of this novel is based on his experiences.

The first half of the book covers Gabriel's childhood, setting the scene with his parents, his sister, their extended family, their driver and houseboy, and especially his friends. It seems like a wide range of people to get to know, but they are all relevant as the civil war breaks out in the second half and we find out the fate of each person, discover how they respond to violence, and how their experiences change them.

One part that I particularly liked was Gabriel's friendship with his middle-aged Greek neighbor how had a vast library of books. After she lends him one, which he devours, they spend afternoons discussing books. Gabriel discovers how books can make him feel, help him think about feelings, and open up to others. Ah, books.

Challenges for which this counts:

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