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Strength in What Remains Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 25, 2009


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (August 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400066212
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066216
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (203 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, September 2009: Strength in What Remains is an unlikely story about an unreasonable man. Deo was a young medical student who fled the genocidal civil war in Burundi in 1994 for the uncertainty of New York City. Against absurd odds--he arrived with little money and less English and slept in Central Park while delivering groceries for starvation wages--his own ambition and a few kind New Yorkers led him to Columbia University and, beyond that, to medical school and American citizenship. That his rise followed a familiar immigrant's path to success doesn't make it any less remarkable, but what gives Deo's story its particular power is that becoming an American citizen did not erase his connection to Burundi, in either his memory or his dreams for the future. Writing with the same modest but dogged empathy that made his recent Mountains Beyond Mountains (about Deo's colleague and mentor, Dr. Paul Farmer) a modern classic, Tracy Kidder follows Deo back to Burundi, where he recalls the horrors of his narrow escape from the war and begins to build a medical clinic where none had been before. Deo's terrible journey makes his story a hard one to tell; his tirelessly hopeful but clear-eyed efforts make it a gripping and inspiring one to read. --Tom Nissley


Amazon Exclusive: Tracy Kidder on Strength in What Remains

Strength in What Remains is the story of Deogratias, a young man from the central African nation of Burundi. In 1993, through no fault of his own, he was forced onto a terrifying journey, a journey that split his life in two. First he made a six-months-long escape, on foot, from ethnic violence in Burundi and from genocide in Rwanda. Then, in a strange twist of fate, he was, as it were, transported to New York City, where it sometimes seemed that his travails had only just begun.

I met Deo by chance 6 years ago. When I first heard his story, I had one simple thought: I would not have survived. I hoped in part to reproduce that feeling as I retold his story. I also hoped to humanize what, to most westerners anyway, is a mysterious, little-known part of the world. We hear about mass slaughter in distant countries and we imagine that murder and mayhem define those locales. Deo’s story opens up one of those places into a comprehensible landscape—and also opens up a part of New York that is designed to be invisible, the service entrances of the upper East Side, the camping sites that homeless people use in Central Park. But above all, I think, this is a book about coming to terms with memories. How can a person deal with memories like Deo’s, tormenting memories, memories with a distinctly ungovernable quality?

In the first part of Strength In What Remains, I recount Deo’s story. In the second part, I tell about going back with him to the stations of his life, in New York and Burundi. So the story that I tell isn’t only about the memories that Deo related to me. It’s also about seeing him overtaken by memories—again and again, and sometimes acutely. But Deo didn’t take me to Burundi just to show me around. Giving me a tour of his past was incidental to what he was up to in the present and the future. His story has a denoument that even now amazes me.

Deo is an American citizen. He doesn’t have to go back to Burundi. But he has returned continually and keeps on returning, and, amid the postwar wreckage, with the help of friends and family, he has created a clinic and public health system, free to those who can’t pay, in a rural village—part of a beginning, Deo dreams, of a new Burundi.

This facility was a pile of rocks when I visited the site in the summer of 2006. By the fall of 2008, it had become a medical center with several new buildings, a trained professional staff, and a fully stocked pharmacy. In its first year of operation it treated 21,000 different patients. (The organization that Deo founded and that sponsors and operates this facility is called Village Health Works.)

Deo was very young when he went through his long travail. Several strangers helped to save him from death and despair in Burundi and New York. So did sheer courage and pluck, and also Columbia University, which he attended as an undergraduate. But when it’s come to dealing with the burden of his memories, the public health system and clinic that he founded has been the nearest thing to a solution. In the end, it’s neither forgetting the past nor dwelling on the past that has worked for him. For him the answer has been remembering and acting. I once asked Deo why he had studied philosophy at Columbia. He told me, "I wanted to understand what had happened to me." In the end, he received what most students of philosophy receive—not answers, but more questions. As I was trying to describe his effort to build a clinic, I found myself writing: "Deo had discovered a way to quiet the questions he’d been asking at Columbia. That is, he saw there might be an answer for what troubled him most about the world, an answer that lay in his hands, indeed in his memory. You had to do something."—Tracy Kidder

(Photo © Gabriel Amadeus Cooney)

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With an anthropologist's eye and a novelist's pen, Pulitzer Prize–winning Kidder (Mountains Beyond Mountains) recounts the story of Deo, the Burundian former medical student turned American émigré at the center of this strikingly vivid story. Told in flashbacks from Deo's 2006 return visit to Burundi to mid-1990s New York and the Burundi of childhood memory and young adulthood—as the Rwandan genocide spilled across the border following the same inflamed ethnic divisions—then picking up in 2003, when author and subject first meet, Deo's experience is conveyed with a remarkable depth of vision and feeling. Kidder renders his subject with deep yet unfussy fidelity and the conflict with detail and nuance. While the book might recall Dave Eggers's novelized version of a real-life Sudanese refugee's experience in What Is the What, reading this book hardly covers old ground, but enables one to walk in the footsteps of its singular subject and see worlds new and old afresh. This profoundly gripping, hopeful and crucial testament is a work of the utmost skill, sympathy and moral clarity. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Tracy Kidder graduated from Harvard and studied at the University of Iowa. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award, and many other literary prizes. The author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, My Detachment, Home Town, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, and The Soul of a New Machine, Kidder lives in Massachusetts and Maine.

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Customer Reviews

In the first half of the book, Tracy Kidder tells the story from Deo's point of view.
Yoomi
Like most Americans, I can not imagine life in other countries where one is slaughtered just because you're a member of a different tribe.
Busy Mom
Strength In What Remains is a true story of hope and altruism that is both touching and inspiring.
MyBeesWax

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

370 of 386 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Murphy on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind; William Wordsworth

Rarely does an introductory quote capture the essence of a book as well as Tracy Kidder's choice of the above poem, and rarely does irony reach the intensity of genocide survivor Deogratias' name (Thanks be to God, in Latin).

The star rating system for books can be frustrating and misleading. Does a five star rating mean a new Jane Austen is on the loose? Does a four star rating mean a merely decent read? In the case of Kidder's Strength in What Remains Behind, my four star rating means a fascinating, thought-provoking, big-hit-with-your-book-club read. With serious books, and this is one, sometimes I get the sensation that I've put myself in harness, and in the effort to get the fruits of my labor I will be forced to trudge forward until the job is done. Strength in What Remains Behind is the opposite: once attached to the book by the first few pages, it will draw you wide-eyed and enthralled rapidly towards its conclusion.

Tracy Kidder's book, briefly, is the non-fiction tale of Deogratias. Raised in Burundi (neighbor to Rwanda), Deo lives a nearly idyllic life until the outbreak of ethnic violence in his country replaces Wordsworth's "of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower" with a living hell that makes Dante's Inferno look like a pleasant winter destination resort. Deo, a Tutsi third year medical student, flees Burundi, arriving at age 24 in New York City with $200 in his pocket, the clothes on his back, and his will to survive.
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94 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Aceto TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Tracy Kidder's latest triumph follows in the footsteps of his masterwork, Mountains Beyond Mountains. The true story of Deogratias from Burundi to New York and beyond is for everybody, not for any particular special interest. The title, Strength in What Remains, is from Wordsworth's romantic "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Reflections of Early Childhood". There are many other good reviews if you want to hear more of the particulars, so I want to instead introduce the author to those unacquainted.

Mr. Tracy, like John PcPhee and precious few others, is at the tiny top tier of journalistic authors of books, as opposed to articles of immediacy. Two years he spent listening to Deogratias tell his story and spent in other research. Years ago at the beginning of my technology career I read his "Soul of a New Machine", the story of the skunkworks of Data General Corp. at the dawn of mini-computers and client-server architecture. From then on I learned just to buy whatever he wrote. You teachers might start with his "Among Schoolchildren".

Mr. Kidder is the selfless writer. He does not choose topics to sell books. He has no ideological drum (or horse) to beat. He is not attracted to fads or celebrity, power or the rich. Those are left for the sycophantic, the mediocre, those unencumbered by talent and skill. He uses some sort of dowsing rod for profundity. He is also something of a phenomenologist, letting the truth bubble up from his uncompromising observation of people and circumstances. He does not editorialize or advocate. He does not pretend to understand more than he can show. But he introduces you to all the best people, besides his central figures, taking time to capture them fully.

In "Strength in what Remains, Mr.
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140 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Allen Stenger on July 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the story of Deo, a survivor of the Tutsi-Hutu genocide in Burundi and Rwanda and how he fared after escaping to America. Even though he was a medical student in Burundi, he started life in America as a homeless person living in New York's Central Park, who made a subsistence living delivering groceries. Through a series of almost miraculous encounters, he was able to lift himself up, graduate from Columbia University, and build a medical clinic in his native Burundi. Deo's is a life still in progress, and although his clinic is a triumph, we know he still has great things ahead of him.

This is to some extent a sequel to Kidder's earier book Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, about Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health. Farmer is one of the people who Deo meets, and Deo begins working with PIH.

Kidder's writing is very vivid and immediate, and is told from Deo's point of view, so you feel as if you are traveling and experiencing all this with Deo. In particular you feel that he's not much better off as a homeless person in America than he was on the run in Africa, except that in America no one is trying to kill him.

On the other hand, because events are presented out of sequence, the vivid writing does not build much tension--the narrative starts in 2006 with Deo's return to Burundi, so we know that he has survived all the events that are detailed later and has prospered in his new country.

In Kidder's earlier book
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