In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jun 2018

Member Reviews

Brilliant tale set in one of Africa's darkest episodes.
Thanks to Central Avenue Publishing and Netgalley
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In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is a beautifully written story of the horrible Rwandan genocide and of family, forgiveness and hope.
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The setting for In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is Lillian's home, aptly named Kwizera. In the African language kinyarwands, the word kwizera means belief and hope. It is belief and hope that Nadine, Lilian, and Rachel all hold on to and that keeps them going. Their belief and hope becomes a commentary on the war and genocide of Rwanda. Ultimately, this is a book about survival and about the triumph of hope and love, a memorable story and history that should be remembered. 

Read my complete review at 

Reviewed for NetGalley
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In 2000, Rachel is living in New York with her husband, desperately wanting a child and starting to wonder about her own father who disappeared to travel the world as a photographer almost 30 years before. She has one lead which is a woman named Lillian, living in Rwanda, that she reaches out to and eventually decides to visit in order to try and learn what she can about her father. It is through this trip that she also learns more about Rwanda and the appalling genocide in 1994, and how that impacted her father and those around him.

Although this doesn't sound like a very uplifting novel, it is surprisingly layered and beautiful. It is much more about strength and hope than death and war. I was really impressed that this was Haupt's first novel - she has such a delicate style and is able to describe the most despicable acts in a way that is moving, but not disturbing enough that you turn away. Because although this is a novel, it is based on her own experiences interviewing those in Rwanda in 2006, and the story of what happened in Rwanda should be told and remembered.

I decided to request this book from NetGalley (thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review) after seeing some of the reviews from my friends all landing at 5 stars. It really intrigued me that a book which such strong subject matter could elicit such high reviews, but now I understand. I encourage anyone who enjoys character driven fiction, world events or historical fiction to pick up a copy of this beautiful book.
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I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The not so well known subject matter of this book really piqued my interest and I was really excited to read this. I was not disappointed. This is a fantastic story told from the point of view of different characters that were each effected in their own way by the genocide between the Hutu's and the Tutsi's. 
It was incredibly well told, without any excessive reference to the violence and horrors experienced by these people.  This story needed to be told. I highly recommend it and I am definitely going to read more from this author in the future.
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Jennifer Haupt's novel, set during the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, is haunting, yet beautiful at the same time. She authentically captures the horrific nature of genocide and the destruction it leaves in the hearts and minds of its survivors. Although the book feels slow at the start, I fell in love with the ending. I didn't guess how it would all be resolved, and I felt truly sad when I had to say goodbye to these characters. Haupt used her real-life interviews from Rwanda to complete a novel that speaks to the strength and resilience of the human heart.
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I thought the premise of this novel was strong -- I was hooked just by the synopsis.  However, I felt the dialogue was a little forced and the characters a little flat.  It was just missing that spark that I need to pull me into the plot and keep me there.  I can certainly see great potential in this author, and I would certainly take a look at any future works, but I put this book aside at the 40% mark.
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I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

It's hard for me to say I like this book. Not because I didn't like it, but because how can you say you like something about such a tough subject. I think this book was wonderfully written. It provides a learning experience for people that probably couldn't understand or put a face to the victims of Rwandan refugees. If you like books based on true events, this is for you.
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I stopped reading about 40% into this book. While the writing was okay, I ended up feeling really uncomfortable with the depiction of the Rwandan genocide from an author that only spent one month in the country. I requested this book because I've spent a few months in Rwanda, and was looking forward to reading more about the genocide, but I couldn't get past the fact that it felt very much like the author was writing someone else's story. I can see how others would like the book though, so if it's something you're interested in, don't let my discomfort stop you from reading more. However, I also encourage you to support the many great books by Rwandan authors about their experiences during the genocide.
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A moving story of a woman’s search for the father who abandoned her.  Her journey takes her to an orphanage in post genocide Rwandawhich founded by an American woman who was in a very long and unconventional relationship with her father.  Each character in the novel is multi-dimensional and the setting in Africa is painted beautifully.  The reader is transported to another world where the people and the country have survived a most horrific experience and the scars are deeper than their skin. Yet each character moves forward, the sense of family and community most healing and in a way far removed from therapists and medication.  Not everyone is successful, but amazingly most are,.
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Three women, all powerful and strong, yet all with a connection to one man- Henry Shepherd.
Rachel was too young to recall the entire set of events but wants answers to her father's vanishing act.
Unable to seek solice after her mother's loss she needs comfort, support, and peace and goes searching to reconnect with not only Henry but Lillian.
Lillian Carlson holds the key to unlock the past. She was just a teen when she was photographed by Henry and was led into a romance that knew no bounds.
Seeking change after King's assassination she relocated to help orphans in Rwanda.
Meanwhile Nadine her daughter becomes scarred from genocide, mutilations, and rape.
Rachel's mom always said she'd be better off w/o Harry in her life but was she right?
Remember one thing," There are always folks who have it as bad or worse than you, and they don't go to the house of God to see your troubles."
Well, what more can I say other than Jennifer Haupt shows that race, class, economic factors are constantly being altered in society. Let's not hope that history repeats itself.
Thank you to Jennifer Haupt , her publisher, NetGalley, and Aldiko for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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Suffering from the loss of an unborn child, Rachel Shepard decides that she needs to find her photographer father. Henry Shepard left his eight-year-old daughter and his wife to follow Lillian, a black woman he fell in love with in an era that was a taboo. Rachel’s relationship with her husband strained by the loss of a child sets out for a six-week stay in Rwanda to look for her father.
Set against the backdrop of the one the most heinous genocides the world has ever seen, Rachel lands in Rwanda hoping to reconnect with her father.
What she finds is a country trying to set itself right after years of bloodshed.
Sadly, Rachel’s search for her father against the Rwanda genocide seemed rather shallow, while the stories of Lillian and Nadine tugged at the heartstrings, Rachel did not elicit any empathy from me.
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Excellent. Hard to imagine describing a story about genocide in Rwanda as beautiful, but that's the word that I would use to describe In The Shadow of 10,000 Hills.

(a more detailed review is forthcoming and will be attached later.)
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“In Rwanda, they have a word ….: Amahoro. It means peace, but so much more.” 

Jennifer Haupt writes of the word “Amahoro” often when she is writing about Rwanda. It means a quest for peace, the type of peace that comes within your soul, your essence, when you have truly forgiven someone and now are at rest with the past. It is a difficult state to achieve, much more difficult if you have been through trauma, but it is this peace, the quest for it and the journey taken along the way, that is at the heart of In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills.

This is the tale primarily of Rachel who, after surviving a miscarriage and the death of her mother, feels the need to seek out her estranged father. a photojournalist living in Rwanda. However, it is also about the women of the villages, the aide workers, her father’s new wife who runs an orphanage in Rwanda and about their commonality of grief. Through the story we learn about the horror, the genocide, that occurred in Rwanda in the 1990s, and we learn how difficult it is to put your life back together after such a massive trauma – but also that trauma, no matter how great or small – binds us all together in a very unique way. It is that link that should open our eyes to the horrors we are causing every single day.

10,000 Hills is not meant to be a documentary of the genocide in Rwanda. It is an opportunity for many readers, all over the world, to learn a bit more about this travesty and, through this knowledge, hopefully, to seek out more resources. That is what I adore about world fiction- it whets the appetite to know more. Many who read this never will have heard of Rwanda, nor will they know about the genocide there. Through a beautiful story they will learn. It is the first step.

The tale itself is marvelously written, the prose is beautiful. It is one of those rare books that opens up both another world outside of my “American concepts” as well as nudges me in the direction to seek out my own peace, to be a better person.

Kudos to Haupt for an excellent book that should be read by all. May we and the world seek and experience Amahoro. 

Thank you, also, to Jennifer Haupt and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this incredible piece of work
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"Amohoro" means peace in Rwanda.  A common phrase spoken though not much peace occurs in Rwanda after the genocide. 

Family comes in all forms.  It's not only your blood family but those that chose you.  Tragic events bring Rachel on a quest to Rwanda to find a father who left when she was very young.  She wants to know why he left her and what he found in Rwanda.  What she finds is a woman raising orphans in the middle of no where.  She finds secrets, about herself and eventually love.
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In her introduction to 'In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills', Michelle Halket admits that she was never one to follow the news. But the news about Rwanda in 1994 consumed her. She writes, “A few years later, I was working at a large firm and met a woman from Rwanda. My face dropped and she said to me in surprise, ‘You know?’ I told her that of course I do, doesn’t everyone? She looked immensely sad, lowered her face and said, ‘No, they don’t.’ I’ve carried her face and words with me since then: the world didn’t know (or care) about Rwanda.”

This sentiment is my blog's ( raison d'être, fostering the urge to learn about the people who have both bolstered society and sought to destroy it. So, because my biggest concern in 1994 was how I was finally going to stop biting my nails and not what was happening halfway around the world, 'In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills' by Jennifer Haupt opened my eyes to the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Summary of 'In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills'

After a miscarriage, Rachel feels the urge to seek out her estranged photojournalist father Henry who she learns lived in Rwanda. She travels to Rwanda 10 years after the genocide to meet Lillian. Originally from Georgia, Lillian operates an orphanage in Rwanda that she and Henry built together. During her stay, Rachel learns about her father while witnessing how Rwandan’s are coming to terms with the genocide. 

Haupt also visited Rwanda a decade after the genocide. On her bio page, Haupt explains that she traveled to Rwanda as a journalist “to explore the connections between forgiveness and grief.” She writes, “It struck me that the common human bond, the thing that ties us all together and transcends our differences, is grief. My quest became more about finding grace — personal peace — than forgiveness. In Rwanda, they have a word for this: Amahoro. It means peace, but so much more. This is the core theme of the novel I worked on for eleven years. Now, more than ever, I believe the world needs Amahoro.”

I hope that grief isn’t the only thing that transcends our differences, but it is a powerful unifier. Haupt makes a valuable point about Amahoro though. The genocide is unforgivable, but it happened. The only way for Rwandan’s to move past it is to make peace or Amahoro with it. In 'In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills', Nadine, Lillian and Henry’s adopted daughter, has the best story arc relating the genocide and the idea of personal peace.

Who Should Read 'In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills'

In her introduction, Halket also points out that the three leading ladies in In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills come from different backgrounds, but they all work together and support each other. This juxtaposed against the close-mindedness that caused the genocide makes 'In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills' a beautiful work of art.

I can’t think of anyone wouldn’t like 'In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills.' It is the best book I’ve read since starting by blog Picking Books. 'In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills' is not mass-market fiction, but it reads like it is. The characters are authentic and unforgettable, the pacing is spot on, and it makes you think. Although it does deal with the serious issue of the Rwandan genocide, 'In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills' is not depressing. Instead, it is both moving and hopeful.

For an in-depth look at the genocide as it relates to 'In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills' visit
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I enjoyed the book immensely it was historically dense and deeply emotionally engaging, everyone has secrets or something they seek and brought together on the red earth of Rwanda all the pieces begin to tessellate into a shape none of them expected. I highly recommend.
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Powerful, important, beautifully written page-turner that everyone should read. Though it deals with an horrific period of history the captivating writing engages the reader so that we will never forget.
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I felt compelled to watch Hotel Rwanda after getting about halfway through this book. I knew little about the terrible events of that time. It is so hard to believe they actually happened so recently. The story, or rather subject matter, was fleshed out here and drew me in more.  It’s interesting to learn about the back stories of things I didn’t necessarily follow when they were occurring. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book for review.  I would recommend it.
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In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is a historical fiction novel about Rachel, a young woman from the United States who, after a late-term pregnancy loss, flies to Rwanda to find the father who abandoned her and her mother when Rachel was eight years old. She travels to visit an orphanage run by Lillian, the African-American woman Rachel's father Henry had married after leaving Rachel and her mother. After seeing how Lillian and Henry built a family with the orphans that lived with them during and after the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In particular, Rachel meets a young woman named Nadine who looked up to Henry as a new father after her own parents were murdered. Rachel must come to terms with her father's abandonment as she learns that Henry had done the same thing in Rwanda - he is no longer there, as he had abandoned Lillian and Nadine as well.

I have to address the elephant in the room on this one - four of the main characters are not native citizens of Rwanda, and two of those are white. When I started reading this, I had some pretty significant concerns that this would turn into a white savior novel. So let me start now by saying that is absolutely not the case in this novel. Without revealing any spoilers, I just want to say that In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills manages to empower every one of the characters in his or her own way without taking anything away from the others. The novel had an interesting take on justice and forgiveness, and Lillian's experience in United States's civil rights movement definitely added an interesting layer. It had very little focus on racism, which I was glad to see - while racism is undoubtedly a topic that needs discussed, this novel was not the place for that discussion. Instead, it looked carefully at Nadine, a young Tutsi woman, who must overcome the trauma she experienced during the genocide when she was a child. Nadine's inner journey is engaging and sympathetic, and while part of me wishes that Nadine had just been made the main character as well as the narrator, I do still think that Rachel, Henry, Lillian, and Tucker had some interesting things to add to Nadine's journey.

Having said that, there truly are some stunning characters in this book. Rachel can sometimes come across as self-centered, but her appreciation for the beauty of Rwanda as well as her deep respect for Lillian and Nadine made her likable still, and by the end of the story she had developed enough to be just as sympathetic as the others. Lillian's search of independence was inspiring, and even when she made poor decisions I could not help but admire her. Nadine was by far my favorite character - she was strong and determined and ambitious, and her back story added to her strength rather than taking that way. As a whole, I found myself wanting more from Nadine - more narrative from her, more dialogue, and I was highly invested in her personal growth. Tucker was less well-developed, but was just a generally likeable character. Even Henry, who often felt like the villain of the novel, was deeply complex, and I had sympathy for him by the end, even if I could not admire him.

My biggest complaint with In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is pacing. I don't mind slow books, and was prepared for this one to take awhile to find its stride. The problem for me was that it took too long for me to even figure out the direction of the plot. A good deal of the time spent on Rachel's life in the United States felt unnecessary to me - I didn't really need to see any scenes before she arrived in Rwanda - I felt that it all could have been told in flashbacks if it needed to be shown in the first place. Similarly, the email exchange at the beginning between Rachel and Lillian just dragged on to the point where I was not quite sure Rachel was going to make it to Rwanda in the first place. I think so many of my concerns with the plot and the pacing could have been solved if we had been given character development on the fly rather than whole scenes devoted to back story.

I think the best part of In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills was the time spent on the setting - both the physical setting of Rwanda as well as the people in the villages and farms near the orphanage. Through Rachel's eyes we were able to see Rwanda as it was after the genocide - how divisions between the Hutus and Tutsis still lingered, how many still mourned the deaths of their loved ones, and how both sides kept their humanity, even after the horrific killings.

In all, I'll give In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills an 8 out of 10. There was so much to enjoy with the characters and the setting, and I felt like I learned a lot of real history and culture, so this is a great novel for those interested in world history and travel. However, readers wanting a fast-paced action-adventure should pass on this one.
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