A tale about the trauma and pain of moving to a new world

IN 1994 Burundi and neighbouring Rwanda exploded into a civil war in which native Hutus and Tutsis slaughtered each other in one of the world's most horrifying conflicts. About a million people died.

The writer's account of what Deo, a medical student from Burundi endured and survived just before he boarded a plane for New York is one of the most powerful passages of modern nonfiction.

The writing is clear and direct and is told from Deo's point of view. You feel as if you are traveling and experiencing all this with Deo.

In particular you feel that he's not much better off as a homeless person in the US than he was while on the run in Africa. Except that in America, no one is trying to kill him.

This is the story of every immigrant who left his country to escape persecution, violence and starvation.

This is a story of the shattering adjustment that immigrants have to make to survive in a new culture and country.

It is a tale for and about everyone who has experienced the trauma of trying to eke out a living and survive in a new world, mostly hostile to one's ambitions.

Through Deo's eyes we see how the unclear differences between Tutsi and Hutu make a disturbing mockery of the supposed distinction of ethnicity. Hutu and Tutsi begin to slaughter one another. Deo, faced with the horror of seeing a baby sitting on the lap of his dead mother's body and he could not even help.

He then collapsed into a heavy sleep. He's woken up a day later by a Hutu woman. She pulled him out of the bush and discovered that he was a Tutsi. She took a risk in saving him from being beheaded.

Like all stories of Hutu against Tutsi and their realisation that they aren't too different, their acts of kinship and kindness just take one's breath away.

This is a book you will love if you, like the rest of the world, regrets turning a blind eye while Rwanda burnt.

It is about a few human beings who are humane and generous enough to extend a hand to a fellow sufferer.