It all begins with an anniversary cake, not just any anniversary cake – but a Wazungu (“white people”) style cake.
Tanzanian baker Angel Tungaraza, now living in Rwanda, does not want to turn down this new commission, but is deeply disappointed to not show off her style and skill making shapes or using colors. Unfortunately the Ambassador’s wife wants her 25th anniversary cake to look just like the one from her wedding. You can feel Angel’s disappointment. She despairs that others will not know all she is capable of when this plain (despite the tiers) cake is brought to the anniversary celebration.
It is over this and so many more conversations that Angel has with customers, or in her travels around Rwanda, especially her neighborhood in Kigali, that we learn about the aftermath in Rwanda, thoughts about (and of) the volunteers and aid workers streaming in to the country and the fear and even misunderstanding surrounding AIDS. But we also find hope, forgiveness and definitely perseverance among everyone we meet in this book.
While there are many great characters in Baking Cakes in Kigali, this book belongs to Angel. As she copes with raising her five grandchildren, while getting through menopause, Angel is like the supreme mother to all the characters in the book – as she pulls out their stories over sweet tea flavored with cardamom, she advises, teaches and even learns about herself and things that she hadn’t previously faced in her life.
It took me a bit to get through this book, not because it was slow or didn’t hold my interest. I think I was reading to the pace of the book – taking a moment, and a deep breath, and letting things unfold without a rush. There is no major action, just a collection of wonderful stories gathered up by Angel.
An interesting, at least to me, side note: In Gaile Parkin’s bio on the back of my ARC copy it notes, “Many of the stories told by characters in Baking Cakes in Kigali are based on or inspired by stories she was told during her work in Rwanda.” Not knowing much about Rwanda, to me, these stories in the book were both inspiring and important to know.
Baking Cakes in Kigali
Author: Gaile Parkin
Publisher: Delacorte Press
This ARC was from a Member Giveaway on Library Thing.