Cover Image: Truth, by Omission

Truth, by Omission

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I was an emotional wreak by the time i.was done reading Truth By Omission. Such a ground breaking novel, that puts you through so many emotions. This is a very heartbreaking, yet inspirational novel.
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This novel details the brutal life of a child born in Rwanda who escapes brutality but is forced into situations that require him to participate in bloodshed.  He finds a mentor, works hard to become educated,  finds love, becomes a father, and then the past finds him.  This novel is both heartbreaking and inspirational. 

I highly recommend the book.
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Wonderfully crafted account of the sad reality of many people living in Africa during the Rwanda genocide.  Azi is a small boy when his parents,  and then his aunt and uncle, are brutally murdered and he finds himself captive by a gang of thugs.  He endures their ruthless abuse and witnesses events no person should ever be subjected to.  Azi is a smart boy and also does terrible acts in order to fit in and survive.  His intelligence allows for his ease and the love of learning.  He has an uncanny knack for learning many new languages and dialects that sets his life on course it probably wouldn’t have otherwise taken.  

The story follows Azi AKA Alfred as he gets away from captors and attends a catholic missionary school, he eventually ends up at a UN run refugee camp.  Now in his late teens his life begins to change, he meets people (Victor and four Nuns) who love and believe in him.  They have a profound influence on his character and change is life.  Opportunity arises for young Alfred and he ends up in the USA.  He has a loving devoted wife, a beautiful daughter and a solid career as a physician.  But never being too far from his ugly and tragic past, he is accused of war crimes in Rwanda and has to deal front and center with those horrific events.

There is a lot going on here and many lessons to be learned; Rwanda history, Human tragedy, Love, Compassion, Empathy, Forgiveness, Opportunity, Loyalty, How strong the human will is to survive, How good can come out of so much evil.  

We make our own destiny and can’t run away from our deeds, good or bad we are accountable.  Our actions follow us in way way or another, be always kind, your conscience will thank you.
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What a beautiful and moving story, sadly not always fictional. Although the rest of the world didn't see the genocide in Rwanda on their news channels, we, in Africa did. 

This is such a strong and sad story, of forgiveness, hope and kindness. It's all too often we hear of child soldiers, child slaves, children who must do what they must do just to survive. It's so easy for us, who eat every day, who sleep in relative safety, to think of these kids as barbarian. As hopeless cases. When you read this book as I really hope you do, please try to see life from Azi's eyes, and not your own. And please, let us all show some kindness to others, no matter how small.  Kindness can never be underestimated, only remembered.

Beautifully written, and put in perspective for me, even though I watch this almost daily on the news, and my heart aches for these children, the picture is much clearer now. Horrifying but clearer.

Thank you to Netgalley and the author for allowing me to read this enrichingly sad book, reality in most of Africa.
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Book Review: 'Truth, by Omission' by Daniel Beamish

When should you read ‘The Truth, by Omission’? When you’re ready for some deep introspection about your own history and mankind’s ability to be morally good.

With thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for a free e-copy of ‘Truth by Omission’ in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday morning history
It’s Sunday morning; we drink tea, we eat brunch. Mr Shelf asks, ‘what’s that you’re reading there?’

‘Oh, just a casual book about the Rwandan genocide,’ I say, merrily.

‘Truth by Omission’ tells the story of Alfred, a doctor living in the States with his American wife, Anna. Although he has settled into his new life, he has a dark history: he grew up during the Rwandan civil war and subsequent genocide. There is much about his past that even his wife does not know.

However, history has a way with catching up with us and Alfred will need to answer for the actions he committed in the direst of circumstances.



Growing up during genocide
Through flashbacks to his childhood, we grow to understand more about Alfred. Having witnessed extreme brutality at a very early age, he has been influenced not only by what he has seen, but what he has needed to do to survive.

Alfred is a very sympathetic character. We’re always on his side. We have some insight into his thoughts and experience his remorse and, sometimes, self-pity alongside him.

But the novel asks a lot of quite complex questions about morality which are less clear-cut than they first seem.

We know, for example, that Alfred killed while he was a minor. But in one particular section, we read about the brutality he used while killing. How do we feel about that? Did he use unnecessary force? Could a killing like that ever be justified? Can we even judge it at all, independent as we are of its context?

I really enjoyed the quite subtle way that Beamish introduced these moral dilemmas. Through exposing us to really brutal situations and demanding our emotional involvement, he manages to convincingly blur our morals. It’s an impressive feat and one that I only really realised had happened after I finished the novel!

Is it a historical novel?
When I first read the novel, I didn’t know anything at all about the author and deliberately did not look him up until after I had finished. I was surprised to learn that he did not have a personal experience of the Rwandan genocide as he writes about it so confidently and sensitively.

However with the new knowledge that ‘Truth, by Omission’ was not written by a Rwandan author (and also bearing in mind its title), it seems to me in retrospect that it’s less about telling the story of the genocide and more about examining human morality against this backdrop.

Usually, I’m enthusiastic about novels like that and ‘Truth by Omission’ certainly provides lots of moral questions to chew over. These include the age of criminal responsibility, whether violence can be justified, and whether all people are equally capable of it.

It may not be a historical novel in the true sense, as it relies on a majority of fictional events which coincide with the real events of the Rwandan genocide, but it still has a lot to say.



A personal bugbear
It is a huge bugbear of mine to read novels which contain ‘perfect women’. Or, as Gillian Flynn calls them in ‘Gone Girl’, ‘Cool Girls’.

Basically, ‘perfect women’ are not real characters; they don’t have their own thoughts or agendas. They never make mistakes, they never consider their situation pragmatically but above all they never, ever doubt their husbands.

In ‘Truth by Omission’, Alfred’s wife Anna is a ‘perfect woman’. She sticks by Alfred’s side even when it looks like he might have killed a lot of people. Even though he is very sketchy about his history, she never wavers.

She also wants to have sex at inexplicable times, precisely at the moment when most actual women would probably want to punch their husbands in the face. ‘Perfect women’ are a male fantasy that I’m very tired of reading.

However, this is very probably a personal quirk of mine that many readers would not notice or particularly mind.

I also found it really refreshing at the start of the novel that Beamish had – seemingly – flipped a few stereotypes.

From tropes I’d previously read, I had expected that Alfred’s integration into a white American family might be fraught with racial tensions (as this is a favourite trope of lots of novels).

Not so! His wife’s genuinely lovely, ‘woke’ family accept him with open arms. Great! But no – my hopes had disintegrated by the end of the novel.

Overall
I really enjoyed reading ‘Truth by Omission’. It was well written, sensitive and morally complex. It also had a majority of interesting, believable characters, despite the few that got on my nerves.

I would recommend this novel as an absorbing and affecting read. It’s perfect if you’re interested in the history of the region and also like your reads to come with some challenging issues to keep your brain occupied.

Strong six out of ten
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