Left to Tell

Left to Tell Summary and Analysis of Part 2: Chapters 13-16


Nothing has improved after a month in hiding. The radio is still full of incendiary hatred against Tutsis. The country has descended into full-fledged violence with local government officials giving out weapons like machetes and guns to ordinary citizens, who have seized upon the killing craze. The women hear about what is happening from the pastor, who has grown stressed and distant while trying to keep them alive. He tells the women that he plans to send them to live on a remove island in Lake Kivu to be wives of the Abashi Bushmen.

Immaculée prays for 15 to 20 hours a day. “In the midst of the genocide, I’d found my salvation,” (107) she writes. Pastor Murinzi’s children all return home and two of them are full of compassion for Immaculée and the other women. One night the pastor suddenly brings two more women into the bathroom: sisters Malaba and Solange. They had been hiding with Malaba’s godmother, the pastor’s daughter Marianne, but had to leave to avoid suspicion. They pretended to be part of the Interhamwe to have safe passage, and they saw piles of corpses and horrible violence on their way to the pastor’s house.

One day Immaculée hears men in the house talking about a master’s graduate whose head was smashed in, and she immediately thinks it was Damascene. Though the pastor tells her it was not, she sobs uncontrollably, then gets herself together and never cries again in the bathroom. In the bathroom, the women lose huge amounts of weight and are covered in scabs and lice. Yet Immaculée feels loved and cherished by God despite her troubles, which include illness in addition to discomfort. Immaculée knows God has a purpose for her and waits to find out what it might be.

Immaculée overhears a conversation about the UN sending new troops, and Immaculée realizes that she must work for the UN and would need to learn to speak English. The pastor gives her a French-English dictionary and two difficult English-language books. Immaculée spends all day studying English, word by word. She eventually teaches herself to write in English, including a letter to her imagined UN rescuer.

Immaculée’s boyfriend John visits the pastor and is able to reunite with Immaculée, but she finds him much changed, and unsympathetic to her plight. She is also disturbed by his freedom in contrast to her being trapped. She falls out of love with him because of his suddenly unloving behavior toward her. He is never openly hostile but he clearly has no conception of what she is going through and does not care for her emotionally when she needs it.

Two months into hiding, Immaculée overhears from Sembeba that the French are coming in. The French are welcomed by the Hutu, who think they support the genocide, but the French reveal that they are setting up “safe havens” (125) for Tutsi survivors and will protect them. Immaculée suggests to the pastor that the women make for one of these safe camps. The women have been hiding for three months. One night the pastor invites them to watch a movie in an empty bedroom: their first foray out of the closet. But one of the pastor’s houseboys sees the TV lights and reports to a group of killers that the pastor is hiding the Tutsi women.

Immaculée knows that if the killers find her she will be killed. The women go back into the bathroom when she hears the killers calling her name, taunting that they have not yet found Immaculée and know this is where she was last scene. Immaculée prays, full of fear, and has a vision of Jesus telling her that if she trusts him, he will save her. The killers do not find them even when they return a second time. Another houseboy is still suspicious and seems to know the women are in the bathroom. Finally, after three months in hiding, the pastor and women agree that they must leave for the French camp.

Before they leave they see themselves in the mirror and see how much they have changed. “We looked like the living dead,” (133) Immaculée says. She went from 115 to 65 pounds in weight. The pastor shows the women to his ten children, and except for the two who knew they were there, the rest are utterly shocked. The women depart.


This chapter highlights Immaculée’s devotion to and love of God, despite her horrible circumstances. It is through her belief in God that she is able to visualize a life for herself after the genocide:

“God had planted a seed in my mind. He’d told me to learn English, and that practice was showing me that a rich and exciting life was waiting for me on the other side of the genocide. I knew that whatever I envisioned would come to pass if I had faith and visualized it with a pure heart and good intentions, and if it were something God though was right for me. It was then that I realized I could dream and visualize my destiny,” (118) Immaculée writes.

This quote shows a central idea of the novel, which is self-reliance and positive visualization. Immaculée reached this realization through prayer, but part of her message is that this positive thinking no matter the circumstances is accessible to all.

Despite her uplifted spirit at times, Immaculée also suffers crushing psychological blows because of her confinement and fear. When the women are watching a movie, she fears for the safety of a young boy out alone, afraid that he will be killed:

“Then I remembered that it was only a movie, and it wasn’t even set in Rwanda. I’d forgotten there were places in the world where being born Tutsi wasn’t a crime punishable by death,” (126) she writes. This quote shows the depth to which the horrors in her country have affected her default outlook of the world.

Despite these trials, Immaculée relies on the love and will of God. Her uplifting reliance is best symbolized by this quote: “I put the Bible in my mouth and clenched it tightly between my teeth. I wanted to swallow God’s words, to gulp them down into my soul” (130). Her heartfelt metaphor shows the powerful force that God has in her life to make her feel safe. This quote blends the literal with the religious: unlike her previous dreams of conversations or revelations from God, this is a literal moment of trying to force the word of God into her body.