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An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography Paperback – February 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. For former hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, words are the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal. For good and for evil, as was the case in the spring of 1994 in Rwanda. Over 100 days, some 800,000 people were slaughtered, most hacked to death by machete. Rusesabagina—inspiration for the movie Hotel Rwanda—used his facility with words and persuasion to save 1,268 of his fellow countrymen, turning the Belgian luxury hotel under his charge into a sanctuary from madness. Through negotiation, favor, flattery and deception, Rusesabagina managed to keep his "guests" alive another day despite the homicidal gangs just beyond the fence and the world's failure to act. Narrator Hoffman delivers those words in a stirring audio performance. With a crisp African accent, Hoffman renders each sentence with heartfelt conviction and flat-out becomes Rusesabagina. The humble hotel manager not only illuminates the machinery behind the genocide but delves into Rwanda's complex and colorful cultural history as well as his own childhood, the son of a Hutu father and Tutsi mother. Hoffman successfully draws out the understated elegance of Rusesabagina's simple and straightforward prose, lending the story added vividness. This tale of good, evil and moral responsibility winds down with Rusesabagina visiting a church outside Kigali where thousands were massacred and where a multilingual sign-cloth now pledges, "Never Again." He once more stops to consider words, the ones he worries lack true conviction—like those at the church—as well as the ones with the power to heal. For the listener, the words of Paul Rusesabagina won't soon be forgotten.
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Rusesabagina . . . weaves his country’s history with his personal history into a rich narrative that attempts to explain the unexplainable. . . . The book’s emotional power comes from his understatement and humility. (The Boston Globe)

An extraordinary cautionary tale. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Rusesabagina’s story of survival amid manic slaughter is as awful as it is gripping. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Read this book. It will humble and inspire you. (Sunday Telegraph, London)

Extraordinary—horrific and tragic, but also inspiring, because Rusesabagina refuses to give up his belief in the basic decency of humanity. (The Times, London)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038603
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Lynn M. Griesemer on April 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Well written, provocative and emotionally captivating. "An Ordinary Man" should be required reading for everyone, especially young adults - our future generation. I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Rusesbagina when he spoke at a local college on April 10th to a crowd of over 1000. He is humble, bright and compassionate. He escaped death at least half a dozen times during the spring of 1994. I can only wonder if God's plan was not only for him to save 1268 lives, but to bring the whole issue of genocide to the forefront of the minds of the hundreds of thousands who will read this book.

I bought his book on the spot and have been consumed by it for the past week. I've stayed up late; I began researching genocide and I've been lost in deep thought and prayer for those who were murdered and those who are being murdered by genocide as you read this. I plan on reading it again, more slowly in a few months in order to digest all of his ideas, opinions and suggestions.

History was presented to me in a boring manner in high school, but the movie "Hotel Rwanda" and now this book, have caused me to stop what I am doing and take a good hard look at the whole issue of genocide.

Not only genocide, but I can see how the power elite (high level politicians in our country) try to build a case with rhetoric and faulty arguments to get Americans to unknowingly agree with some ludicrous and dangerous beliefs, such as support for the current war in Iraq and possible aggression toward Iran.

In 1994, I remember listening to radio commentary that suggested that the US stay out of Rwanda's affairs and I agreed because that's the case that was built and that's what I heard on the radio. Now I know differently.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By K. B. Brown on April 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I heard Mr. Rusesabagina speak on April 4th at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and was fortunate enough to buy an autographed copy of the book. The writing is amazingly beautiful, and every page is filled with ideas that, if followed, will make us all better people. I'm on chapter two at the moment and preparing for the grisly details to come... but am astonished at the hope and spirituality evident even in the face of such ugliness. Paul Rusesabagina is a saint for modern times, and I would recommend not waiting for the paperback edition of this book.... it is destined to become a classic.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on May 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Our time here on the earth is short, and our chance to make a difference is tiny. For me the grinding blocks of history came together in such a way that I was able to take what fragile defense I had and hold in place for seventy-six days. If I was able to give much it was only because I had some useful things from my life to give. I am a hotel job never changed, even in a sea of fire."

- Paul Rusesabagina

According to Paul Rusesabagina, there was nothing extraordinary about his actions during the Rwandan genocides in 1994. "Over and over people kept telling me that what I did at the Milles Collines was heroic, but I never saw it that way, and I still don't. I was providing shelter. I was a hotel manager doing his job. That is the best thing anyone can say about me, and all I ever wanted. And that's really the best I have to give." To this day and despite the overwhelming success of the recent film Hotel Rwanda that brought his heroic deeds international attention, Rusesabagina insists that he was just an ordinary man doing what he thought was right in a time of national crisis.

Although he is right in saying that he should not be treated as superhuman, there is a certain amount of awe and respect with which we must look upon Rusesabagina and those like him, and recognize the immense amount of courage it took for him to do what he did.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By B. Evans on July 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Because I'd done all mentioned in my review title, I opted to borrow rather than purchase this book on the assumption that what few new things I'd learn really wouldn't merit the expense. How wrong I was.

I can't count the number of times I wished the book were mine so I could underline one of Mr. Ruseabagina's memorable ways of seeing the situation and people in it. In explaining why he maintained contact with an old friend who was among those leading the massacre, for example, Ruseabagina wrote, "People are never completely good or completely evil. And in order to fight evil, you sometimes have to keep evil people in your orbit. Even the worst of them have their soft side, and if you can find and play with that part of them, you can accomplish a great deal of good." The absence of braggadocio in this passage is characteristic of Ruseabagina and the story he tells, something else that is pretty astonishing, given what he did.

Ruseabagina also did a masterful job of explaining the history of Rwanda that led to the genocide. Finally, his description of his childhood home and the beauty of the land is quite poetic and can be sampled via the "Search Inside" feature.

In sum, so well-written, informative and thought-provoking was the book that I bought a copy and am currently re-reading it in order to underline the many things in it that I do not want to forget.

Note: The audio book, which I bought for my mother, is indeed a treat to listen to.
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