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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WARNING: Not for the faint of heart, February 13, 2005
This review is from: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda (Paperback)
PRODUCT ADVISORY--Do not read this book (or this review) if any of the following are true:

You have no stomach for descriptions of graphic violence and human cruelty.

You believe and want to keep believing that serious problems in faraway countries should always be handled by the U.N.

You cherish a belief that people are rational.

If any of those statements applies to you, you'll have serious issues with this book. It's not for the faint of heart or queasy of stomach, it forces the reader to come to terms with the ineffectiveness of international institutions, and, most importantly, it shows the full dark potential of man's cruel, brutish, irrational side.

Gourevitch's book is difficult to read but impossible to put down. He writes excellently and knowingly about a difficult topic many people chose to remain ignorant of: the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans over the space of a few short months in 1994.

Few people outside Rwanda realized what was happening until it was too late, and no one of consequence took any meaningful action to stop the massacres--the U.N. and the U.S., stung by their failure in Somalia less than a year before, sat on the sidelines. Meanwhile, mobs of Hutus, whipped into a frenzy by radio broadcasts spewing anti-Tutsi propaganda, hacked hundreds of thousands of people to death with machetes.

To his great credit, Gourevitch gets beyond statistics, facts and figures, telling stories that bring these events to life in horrifying, vivid detail. Readers feel the terror of Tutsis who had their Achilles tendons cut, who were left writhing in pain on the ground while their assailants ate, drank, and came back to kill them after dinner.

While writing this book, Gourevitch traveled extensively in Rwanda and elsewhere, even as the aftershocks of the massacre reverberated through the surrounding nations. This research paid off well, and he paints an indelible picture of a country and a region wracked by a massive human catastrophe. Indeed, "We Wish to Inform You" reads like a travelogue from hell, a visitor's guide to a blood-soaked patch of God's green earth where the perpetrators of genocide now live side by side with the friends and family of their victims.

Other reviewers have criticized this book for meandering too much after the initial descriptions of the massacres. These passages, though, work well to illustrate how the U.N., having sat on its hands during the killings, bungled their aftermath, and how the problems in Rwanda were ultimately best solved by Rwandans and other Africans. And that is perhaps the best and most surprising thing about Gourevitch's book; after all the bloodshed and all the killing and all the cruelty, it ends on a note of peace, optimism--and humanity.
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Location: Chicago, IL United States

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