Left to Tell

Left to Tell Summary and Analysis of Part 3: Chapters 21-24


The Tutsi soldiers do not believe that Immaculée could still be alive if she were a Tutsi and are prepared to kill her because they think she is a Tutsi spy. Before she is shot dead, one of the soldiers recognizes her. He is Bazil, her former neighbor, a Hutu who went to fight with the RPF. He convinces the soldiers that she is a Tutsi in need of help, and they go off to escort the rest of the refugees, who are still with Aloise, to safety.

During her brief stay at the camp, Immaculée tries to stick to her Godly message to forgive the killers, but finds this tested again by seeing mass graves. She realizes she will need to leave Rwanda in order to heal herself, so that she can one day help others heal.

Soon the refugees leave for Kigali with Aloise. The RPF major supplies a truck and driver to take Immaculée and her friends to Aloise’s house, and the truck is also filled with enough food to last them months. They drive through Kigali and see the city in ruins, uninhabited and destroyed from the fighting. They first drive to the UN to find Aloise’s husband Fari, who also knew Immaculée’s parents. Immaculée finds out that Aloise had a baby that died of a fever during the genocide.

Aloise’s house has been abandoned for months and has been partially destroyed, but the group cleans it for a week and rebuilds what they can. They find clothing to wear in abandoned houses and have enough food to eat thanks to the RPF. Immaculée decides she must get a job, and Fari tells her the only open places are at the UN. Immaculée waits day after day at the UN but is not offered a job because there are none to be had. Immaculée asks God to help her help herself: she needs to get her money and education credentials from her old dorm room in Butare.

One of the professors she knew at Butare chances to spot her in Kigali and offers her a ride to campus. Like Kigali, the campus is shattered. Immaculée knows many of her friends will have died during the massacre there. In her room, everything has been taken or destroyed except an envelope with her high school diploma, her university progress report, and $30. Immaculée thanks God for answering her prayers, and is able to go back to Kigali and get nice clothing, perfume, her hair done, and such, so that she can look professional to get a job.

Back in Kigali, she goes to the UN and asks the personnel director for a job, but all that is available is secretarial work and she cannot use a computer or speak English well enough to do the job. She leaves upset, but is offered a job by a man she meets in the stairwell named Pierre Mehu, who is a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda. His secretary teaches her how to type and use their filing system, and she soon passes the UN typing and English tests and secures a job as a clerk tracking relief supplies.

Immaculée loves her new job, especially all the new skills she can learn and people from other countries she can meet. By October her friends from the French camp have moved on from Aloise’s, and over a million Tutsi refugees who had lived their lives in exile around the world have returned to the country, while two million Hutus have fled. Immaculée feels she must make a change in her life, and decides to move in with her college roommate Sarah, who tracks her down at Aloise’s.

At Sarah’s home, they live with her elderly parents and Immaculée is finally able to begin to process what happened to her during the genocide. She finally writes to her brother Aimable, which she had been putting off out of fear of the pain. He cannot afford to come see her unless he drops out of school, which she urges him not to do. They write each other weekly instead.

At the UN, Immaculée receives an offer from a Senegalese officer to be escorted anywhere in the country she wants to go. She and Sarah go back to Mataba via helicopter. They are in Mataba in 30 minutes. Captain Traore supervises them at the military compound, where they are taken care of very well. He gives them an armed escort to drive the five miles to her house.

Immaculée is inconsolable to see her ruined village and home and to see the Hutu neighbors that she knows watched or participated in the killings. Some Tutsi neighbors tell her where her mother and Damascene’s remains are buried. Immaculée is filled with rage and truly has her faith tested. “My soul was at war with itself,” (196) she recalls.

She hates the Hutu killers and wants revenge, but knows this is the temptation of the devil. She prays for forgiveness from God and realizes that “the people who’d hurt my family had hurt themselves even more, and they deserved my pity” (197). Immaculée is able to banish the hate from her heart and remind herself to always turn to God when she feel overcome by negative feelings in the future.

The next day she wants to give her mother and brother a proper funeral. She digs up Damascene’s body alongside help from her neighbors, but faints when she sees it. She agrees not to look at her mother’s body. She is glad for the support of her neighbors and friends during the funeral, but knows that they have all lost their faith and hope, while she is lucky to have kept her faith and thus her strength. They dig graves for her family inside her wrecked former home and perform the burial rites without a priest.

Back in Kigali, Immaculée has a vivid dream to end her months of nightmares. She sees her deceased family in warm light, telling her to stop thinking that they are suffering and instead to see how happy they are in the afterlife. Damascene says they will wait for her and that she must forgive the killers. Immaculée is finally at peace about her family’s deaths. Immaculée goes back to Mataba. She visits her mother and Damascene’s graves and tells them about her job and future plans, and finds release in saying goodbye to them.

She then goes to see Semana, the new burgomaster and an old family friend, so that he can tell her who killed her mother and Damascene. She sees that their leader was Felicien, the father of childhood friends – and also the man calling out for her death while she hid in the bathroom. Semana violently screams at Felicien for the horrors he inflicted upon Immaculée’s family, but Immaculée sees the man’s shame and suffering. To the shock of Semana, she forgives him.


The imagery of the changed capitol, Kigali, reflects the horrific changes in the country as a whole during the genocide, both of its landscape and of its people:

We arrived in the capitol in the middle of what would have been a busy working day a few month earlier. As it was, we drove into a ghost town. The streets were deserted except for the occasional United Nations truck or RPF Jeep darting along the empty roads, swerving to avoid the corpses in the street...or the carcasses of the hundreds of dogs the soldiers had shot to stop them from scavenging on human remains. The air reeked of death, and I could hear the wind shrieking through abandoned homes like evicted spirits. So many buildings lay in ruins, burned out and pockmarked by machine-gun fire and mortar rounds. Shop doors were ripped from their hinges, the stores were looted, and every once in a while we'd hear an explosion in the distance. I couldn't recognize the beautiful city whose bright lights and busy boulevards had thrilled me so much as a teenager (180).

In this quote Immaculée enters a changed Kigali. Her wording is especially descriptive and verbose, more so than most of her writing, so this description stands out. She paints a picture of a haunted and abandoned Kigali. Her expressive writing, full of similes and stark adjectives, sets the city and her sight of it apart from most of the day-to-day writing about the genocide. The capitol was once a place of splendor in her schoolgirl eyes and this quote finds it much changed, which reflects how the country has been destroyed.

A completely different view of the country comes when Immaculée and Sarah fly to Mataba from Kigali. "Looking down at my beautiful country, it was hard to believe the ugly truth of the genocide," (194) Immaculée writes. Seen from above, Rwanda is still the beautiful, luscious country it always was. This quote is reflective of Immaculée’s view of the genocide: that with forgiveness the country can one day heal itself.

As in the rest of the book, God plays a prominent role in Immaculée’s healing. She finds herself tempted toward hatred when she sees the ruins of her village and her mother and brother’s bodies, and struggles against the temptation toward vengeance that she believes is posed by the devil. But she prays to God to fill her heart with love: “Fill me with the power of You love and forgiveness,” (196) she begs. God answers her prayers and she is able to forgive. This illustrates Immaculée’s central message: anyone can learn to forgive.