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Running the Rift Reviews

Reviews for Running the Rift

"In Naomi Benaron's Running the Rift, a novel full of unspeakable strife but also joy, humor, and love, "hope always [chases] close on the heels of despair," thanks to a writer who knows when to keep a steady pace and when to explode into an all-out sprint."

—O: The Oprah Magazine

"Running the Rift encourages us to see the world as a whole, despite the simmering divisions that constantly threaten to erupt. The genocide scars Jean Patrick and scuttles his personal Olympic dream. But other seemingly impossible dreams are realized in this accomplished, comprehending and generous first novel."

—Kansas City Star

"This debut novel set against the backdrop of Rwanda's ethnic conflict is a powerful coming-of-age story that highlights the best and the worst of human nature."

—Christian Science Monitor

"Benaron's focus on this one young man is part of the book's brilliance . . . Benaron writes beautifully about the pain and exhilaration of being an Olympic-level runner (she's a triathlete) . . . It's unbearable; Benaron's genius is that we read on despite it."


"In Running the Rift, Naomi Benaron folds two of her abiding passions—Rwanda and running—into an enlightening, satisfying story."

—School Library Journal, starred review

"A gripping, frequently distressing portrait of destruction and ultimate redemption . . . Benaron sheds a crystalline beacon on an alarming episode in global history, and her charismatic protagonist leaves an indelible impression."


"…where Benaron shines is in her tender descriptions of Rwandan’s natural beauty and in her creation of Jean Patrick, a hero whose noble innocence and genuine human warmth are impossible not to love."

—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Benaron accomplishes the improbable feat of wringing genuine loveliness from unspeakable horror . . . It is a testament to Benaron's skill that a novel about genocide . . . conveys so profoundly the joys of family, friendship, and community."

—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"An auspicious debut . . . Having worked extensively with genocide survivor groups in Rwanda, Benaron clearly acquired a very lucid sense of her characters' lives and of the horrors they endured. Her story tells, with compelling clarity, of Rwandan Tutsi youth, Jean Patrick Nkuba—who dreams of becoming Rwanda's first Olympic medalist. It's a dream he must postpone for more than a decade as the internecine savagery, Hutu vs.Tutsi, slaughters millions and derails the lives of countless others. While it would be counterintuitive to pronounce this a winning, feel-good story, there is something to be said for hope restored. And Naomi Benaron's characters say it well."

—The Daily Beast

"First novelist Benaron, who has actively worked with refugee groups, won the 2010 Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for this unflinching and beautifully crafted account of a people and their survival. In addition, she compellingly details the growth and rigorous training of a young athlete. VERDICT Readers who do not shy away from depictions of violence will find this tale of social justice a memorable read, and those interested in coming-of-age stories set in wartime will want it as well. Highly recommended; readers who loved Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner will appreciate."

—Library Journal, starred review

"Benaron writes with self-assurance, intelligence, and a rare musicality that keeps the reader glued to what's understandably wrenching subject matter. Her prose, while beautiful, is unsparing, and she doesn't understate the horrors of the genocide. She is a breathtakingly compassionate writer, one who doesn't fall into the trap of condescension that befalls many Western authors. . . . We can never erase the atrocities that gripped Rwanda and broke the world's heart. We can only make sure never to forget. With Running the Rift, Naomi Benaron does her best to make sure we never will—and the result is a novel bound to endure, as brilliant as it is urgent and necessary."

—Michael Schaub, Publishers Lunch