Left to Tell

Left to Tell Summary and Analysis of Part 3: Chapters 17-20


The pastor guides the women to the French camp, with his sons surrounding the women to keep them safe. They pass a drunken crowd of Interhamwe but manage to stay concealed inside the circle of men. The men leave them before the French camp and the women must run the remaining short distance. They are finally let into the French camp, with Immaculée able to translate for everyone and let them know they are safe.

In the camp Immaculée sees Jean Paul, a friend of her brothers. He is there with his brother, who is deeply disturbed by his own ordeal in the genocide. From them she learns that Kigali has fallen which has led to the genocide dying down a little, but the country still not safe.

Jean Paul also tells her how everyone in her family died: her father was killed a week into the genocide, April 14th, when he asked for food for refugees hiding in the Kibuye stadium and was shot in the street. Her mother was killed a few days after her father: she thought Damascene was being killed and ran to tell the killers to stop. It was not Damascene, and they chopped her to death. Vianney was killed at the Kibuye stadium with Augustine along with thousands of other people, while Damascene was brutally killed when his friend Bonn’s brother betrayed him and then Damascene refused to tell the killers where Immaculée was. Only Aimable survived because he was in Senegal.

The French soldiers take the women in the back of a covered truck to their base camp. There she finds several of her aunts and cousins on her mother’s side. Her aunt Esperance gives her a letter that Damascene wrote to his family – his last words that Immaculée will ever hear. Immaculée is devastated to read the letter, in which Damascene acknowledges that he knows their whole family is dead besides Immaculée, who has not yet been confirmed dead. He begs her to be strong and says they will meet again, in this life or the next.

At the French camp, the women are protected and free within the fortified boundaries. They have food and a safe place to sleep outside, surrounded by the militia. The captain offer to kill anyone Immaculée wants, and this tempts her back into the hatred that she has escaped; yet she comes out unscathed, still hoping that the killers will find God’s mercy. Immaculée becomes a translator for the camp, since the soldiers speak only French and the Tutsis only Kinyarwanda.

She becomes friends with Florence, a woman who survived hiding under the dead family’s bodies in a truck full of corpses and then being thrown off a cliff by the Hutu killers. Immaculée also becomes friends with the French soldier Pierre, but rebuffs his romantic intentions.

Eventually their camp becomes a transit station for refugees who are soon transferred to a new larger camp also run by the French. Immaculée stays at the old camp to do intake. A politically connected woman, Aloise, arrives with her children. It turns out that Immaculée’s mother paid Aloise’s tuition when her family could not and thus set the course of her life on a path toward success. Aloise says she will figure out a way to pay back Immaculée for her mother’s good deed: she will take her to live with her in Kigali like a daughter when the fighting ends, and she can bring her friends as well.

In late August the captain suddenly tells Immaculée that the women must be ready to leave in two hours to go stay with Tutsi soldiers. The 30 remaining women pile back into the truck in broad daylight. From under the canvas tarp, Immaculée can see that the road is full of Hutus. The captain tells the women they all have to get out because there is fighting in the region and the soldiers are not allowed to engage. Immaculée is shocked and stunned that the French captain actually thinks the women will survive walking through a crowd of Interhamwe, but he is serious.

They are surrounded by hostility on the edge of violence. When Aloise’s wheelchair gets stuck, Immaculée, Jean Paul and their friend Karega walk ahead to get to the Tutsi camp. They face jeers and threats of violence and Immaculée prays the whole time for protection and for the killers to lose their hatred. They make it safely to the camp but are stopped at the RPF roadblock by guns in their faces.


This section continues the theme of forgiveness as Immaculée and the other women leave the bathroom and go to the French camp. They get to hear horror stories from other survivors and see the ruins of their country in front of their own eyes. At one point, Immaculée says to Jean Paul, “The genocide is happening in people’s hearts… The killers are good people, but right now evil has a hold on their hearts” (144). This quote shows Immaculée’s central theme of forgiveness. Jean Paul cannot understand how people are doing the horrible things they are, and Immaculée says this quote to explain that everyone is good, but can also be tempted by evil.

Damascene’s last words also reflect this theme:

Instead of negotiating or begging for mercy, he challenged them to kill him. "Go ahead," he said. "What are you waiting for? Today is my day to go to God. I can feel Him all around us.... I pity you for killing people like it's some kind of child's game. Murder is no game: If you offend God, you will pay for your fun. The blood of the innocent people you cut down will follow you to your reckoning. But I am praying for you...I pray that you see the evil you're doing and ask for God's forgiveness before it's too late" (154).

Damascene refused to tell the killers where Immaculée was hiding and died for his loyalty. Additionally this quote reveals his belief in forgiveness, discovered independently of Immaculée's bathroom prayers. Immaculée frequently wrote that Damascene was her best friend and soul mate, and this quote shows that the pair were alike in their mentality toward the violence and the killers as well. This quote reveals that forgiveness can bring peace in the face of death.

Immaculée wisely realizes, however, that most people will not share her mindset. Hutus and Tutsis alike will continue to harbor hatred and anger toward each other after the genocide, which will perpetuate the cycle of violence that led to the genocide. Immaculée realizes her life’s work may be to teach people how to forgive and thus change the course of violence in the world around her:

I knew that those boys would never see their parents again, and that in all likelihood, all their relatives were dead. I feared that their future would be filled with sadness, abuse, and denied opportunities - the kind of lives where bitterness and hatred easily take root.

I saw the circle of hatred and mistrust forming in those innocent eyes, and I knew that God was showing me another reason He'd spared me. I vowed that one day, when I was strong and capable enough, I would do everything I could to help the children orphaned by the genocide. I would try to bring hope and happiness to their lives, and steer them away from embracing the hatred that had robbed them of their parents, and of a family's love (165).

In this quote Immaculée realizes that the war will not be over until the cycle of hatred in the country is broken, and there are now thousands of wounds to heal from the war. The country could experience violence unless people learn to forgive. Immaculée sees this in two young boys who do not understand where their dead parents have gone and worried that they are innocent now but everything will change when they realize the hatred that has ruined their lives. "The circle of hatred and mistrust" must be broken and this incident shows Immaculée that she can play a role in that.