Book Review: My Father, Maker of the Trees

Maker of treesReading this book was a frustrating experience. Any story about surviving the Rwandan genocide and learning how to forgive should be both deeply shocking, moving, challenging. In some ways this book is, but it also falls short in so many ways.

First the positives. It is a compelling story, Eric Irivuzumugabe and his uncles spent nearly two weeks hiding high up in some cypress trees while all around them the genocide raged. Their survival was amazing and in some cases miraculous, the stories of those that died horrific. Eric’s testimony of how God saved him, taught him to forgive and then help others do the same is wonderful.

However, the writing is of fairly poor quality. It is possible that Eric did indeed narrate the story as you read it in the book. The book may be in effect a transcript. In which case it needed some editing. But (in my personal opinion) when dealing with something as inherently dramatic as Rwanda in 1994 when it comes to adjectives less is definitely more. Phrases such as ‘brutish guns’ or ‘the militia like rabid wolves’, ‘peering into the black atmosphere’ just get stuck in your throat. Why not just ‘peering into the dark/night’?

So I just found it irritating, the writing got in the way of a good story. The task of the writer is to be invisible so that the power of the story shines through. This wasn’t the case here.

Secondly, it lacked sufficient context – the map was inadequate (not worth including) and the history and background limited – the glossary at the back is just about adequate with some basic errors (it mistakes population of Kigali for population of Rwanda). It doesn’t even mention neighbouring Burundi. Sadly, for many we need educating about what happened and this did barely enough to set the scene across the nation, so that as we listened to Eric tell his story, it all made sense. The description of the RPF (the current government) as heroic is not exactly nuanced.

I won’t go on, I just felt disappointed. The story deserved better.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: My Father, Maker of the Trees”

  1. Joie Pirkey says:

    Thank you for your comments on My Father Maker of the Trees. I find them extremely helpful in the preparation of the next book our ministry generates. I had the same kinds of thoughts actually as I read the manuscript.

    For the next endeavor I have found a writer from the East Coast who previously worked for the Globe. I thought that a reporters perspective of Rwanda would fulfill both the need for more history and the sort of factual narrative a reporter has to give in limited space.

    I found your comments to be a confirmation.

    If you get the chance to hear either Eric or his brother Mugabo speak please make the effort. They are AMAZING young men and in their voices their stories are riveting and the sense of hope you walk away with is nothing short of life changing.

    1. Simplepastor says:

      Hi Joie
      Thanks for the comment. The story is indeed remarkable and it does sound like Eric & Mugabo are real peacemakers in Rwanda which is great. I do hope your next writer ‘gets’ what is needed for stories such as these, I’m sure with a good background in journalism that will help. I wish you all the best with the next project.

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