Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Witnessing Rwanda's Plight

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Witnessing Rwanda's Plight

Article excerpt

LAND OF A THOUSAND HILLS: MY LIFE IN RWANDA By Rosamond Halsey Carr with Ann Howard Halsey Viking

272 pp., $24.95

Many lone women seem to have a deep affinity for Africa. Thankfully, they continue to record their memoirs and enrich our understanding of this vast continent.

Rosamond Carr writes from what once was her flower plantation, giving a breathtaking view of her beloved Rwanda and its people, moving the reader from a pastoral paradise to brutal genocide.

Carr left New York and her fashion illustrator job in 1949 to follow her husband to the Congo. Her description of colonial Africa, where she faced a dilapidated home with a retinue of 14 servants, sets the scene for a lifetime of struggle for financial and physical survival.

After a grievous divorce, this courageous woman spent years supporting herself by managing and finally owning vast plantations of pyrethrum, a natural insecticide. In 1962, she was the only American landowner and permanent resident of Rwanda. "The land had taken hold of my heart and soul and would not let go," she writes.

Carr thoughtfully examines the bliss and turmoil of life near the Rwandan/Congo border for over 50 tumultuous years. From her "picturesque paradise" eight miles from the nearest neighbor, she takes us through glorious years of hobnobbing with European colonists in "privilege and complacency." Finally, we are exposed to the unthinkable slaughter of the 1990s.

This amazing life journey winds up with Carr's dedication to the orphanage she recently established for Rwandan children. Having had no children of her own, she now feels "like the woman who lived in a shoe.... blessed with 92."

Names, famous and infamous, stream through the pages, as does the dazzling pageantry of African dynasties and local dance spectacles. The splendor that was Africa is balanced with her daily interdependence on loyal Hutu and Tutsi neighbors and farm workers. …

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