Left to Tell

Left to Tell Summary

Left to Tell is Immaculée Ilibagiza's memoir about her ordeal surviving the Rwandan Genocide. The book was published in 2006, 12 years after the 1994 genocide that claimed one million lives in 100 days. In the first third of the memoir, Immaculée describes her life up until the genocide. She grew up in a middle-class family that valued education, and she had three brothers. Her family was Tutsi. Tensions with the Hutu ethnic group, the majority, were present throughout her life, but rarely made her feel unsafe. She and the rest of her family had Hutu friends and relatives. Immaculée details her life in elementary, high school, and eventually university; it is when she is home for Easter from university that the genocide begins.

The second third of the book tells the story of her time hiding in the bathroom of Pastor Murinzi. In a tiny bathroom, she and 7 other women survived the 91 days of horror in their country. During this time Immaculée connected with God prayed for hours every day to retain her sanity, and, more importantly, to learn to forgive the killers. She also teaches herself English from two books and a dictionary.

Eventually (in the last third of the book) the women leave for a safe French camp, but Immaculée learns that her whole family except her brother Aimable have been killed. Immaculée is the only bilingual refugee (she speaksKinyarwanda and French), so she takes a vital role at the camp of refugee intake. Eventually she ends up at an RPF base and then back in Kigali when the genocide and war are over. She rebuilds her life, getting a job at the UN and meeting her future husband, an American working for the UN named John. He is in Rwanda to set up the criminal tribunal.

Eventually Immaculée moved to the US and becomes an author and motivational speaker. Her main message throughout the book is that anyone can learn to forgive, no matter how horribly they have suffered and been wronged. For her, the path to forgiveness was through God. She even forgives the man who was responsible for the gang that killed her mother and one of her brothers.