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In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills

In 1968, a disillusioned and heartbroken Lillian Carlson left Atlanta after the assassination of Martin Luther King. She found meaning in the hearts of orphaned African children and cobbled together her own small orphanage in the Rift Valley alongside the lush forests of Rwanda.

Three decades later, in New York City, Rachel Shepherd, lost and heartbroken herself, embarks on a journey to find the father who abandoned her as a young child, determined to solve the enigma of Henry Shepherd, a now-famous photographer.

When an online search turns up a clue to his whereabouts, Rachel travels to Rwanda to connect with an unsuspecting and uncooperative Lillian. While Rachel tries to unravel the mystery of her father’s disappearance, she finds unexpected allies in an ex-pat doctor running from his past and a young Tutsi woman who lived through a profound experience alongside her father.

Set against the backdrop of a country grieving and trying to heal after a devastating civil war, follow the intertwining stories of three women who discover something unexpected: grace when there can be no forgiveness.

An evocative page-turner and an eye-opening meditation on the ways we survive profoundly painful memories and negotiate the complexities of love.”
Wally Lamb, author of I Know This Much is True

Excerpt

The girl waits. There are only the silver threads of a spider web swooping precariously over the top left corner of a window frame. There are no rays of warm light seeping through cracked glass. There is no slight breeze, no swaying jacaranda branch heavy with purple blossoms her mother sometimes plucked before church and pinned to the brim of her straw hat. These simple luxuries disappeared hours, perhaps days, ago.

She is not sure how long she’s been curled up in the darkness, under the frame of a stepladder tented with a blue tarp. Long enough so that there is only the faintest odor of paint, turpentine and a piney cleanser. Long enough that her empty stomach no longer gurgles, and the certainty of a machete blade slitting her neck no longer brings up the sour taste of fear. For as long as she can remember, her family has lived with the threat of death—maybe today, maybe tomorrow—as if each day is a gift, easily snatched away. It occurs to her that fear is what has given the Hutus their power. The boys who sometimes shove her into the dirt while walking to school, and the men who come to take her father’s crops. It is some small comfort that they no longer have power over her.

She presses one eye against a ragged triangle of light, scraped open with a rusty nail. It only distracts her mind for a few seconds at a time but that’s enough to suppress the urge to run from this place. There is nowhere to run, nothing to do but wait. Nose pressed to plastic, there is only the shimmering web; no screams, no church bells clanging, no shattering glass, no gunshots that pulse behind her eyes, no ache in her groin, no pieces of prayers.

There is barely enough room, even knees pulled to chest, between the steel rails of the ladder. Still, the girl rocks back and forth, back and forth. She pulls an oversized flannel shirt down over bare knees and hooks it under curled toes. She hums without making a sound, the force of her breath vibrating in her chest, a Kinyarwanda lullaby her mother used to sing every night. Umama sings to her, still, louder than the bass pumping from a boom box, primal and urgent, too loud to be mistaken for music.

She waits, watching the web until the shiny black insect with spindly golden legs floats back into sight. It’s a relief to see the spider fortifying her home, spinning away. As long as the spider is in view, there is a small hope that the man who wrapped his shirt around her and told her to wait, to make herself small and quiet and hide somewhere safe in her mind, might also return.

 

An intensely beautiful debut.
Library Journal

Great Group Reads Selection: IN THE SHADOW OF 10,000 HILLS

In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt is a 2018 selection for Great Group Reads, which is run by the Women’s National Book Association.  Formed in 1917, the WNBA’s founding idea—that books have power and that those involved in their creation gain strength from joining forces—reaches across the decades to now serve members in chapters across the country and network members in between.  Continue reading

Happy Book Birthday, IN THE SHADOW OF 10,000 HILLS!

Today is the official release day of Jennifer Haupt’s beautiful and captivating debut novel, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills.

As a young person, I never cared much for the news, local or international. Perhaps I was too involved in my own middle-class North American issues to care too much about what else might be going on in the world around me. Or perhaps the news cut me more than I wanted it to.

When I heard about the genocide that was happening in Rwanda in the mid 1990’s, I couldn’t stop reading about it. I couldn’t believe that this was happening in this day and age. I mean, weren’t these type of things ancient relics of wars that just didn’t happen anymore? Hadn’t we learned that differences in race, religion and culture didn’t matter?

A few years later, I was working at a large firm and met a woman from Rwanda. My face dropped and she said to me in surprise, “You know?” I told her that of course I do, doesn’t everyone? She looked immensely sad, lowered her face and said, “No, they don’t.” I’ve carried her face and words with me since then: the world didn’t know (or care) about Rwanda.

Fast forward many years later, and Jennifer Haupt’s book crosses my desk. All I can think is, “Oh, I sure hope this book is good.”

Fast forward an afternoon later, after I’ve finished reading the entire thing in one go, and all I can think is, “Oh, I sure hope Jennifer elects to go with me instead of a big 5 publisher, because this book is so good.”

This is isn’t the kind of book that hits you over the head with the gore of what happened over twenty years ago when a million people perished. Sure, it’s a book about something the world needs to know. But it’s also a book about three women from vastly different cultures that find the ties that bind them in the most unlikely of circumstances. More than anything, it’s a book about finding family, love and grace when there can be no forgiveness.

Fast forward to now, when the world again seems to need a lesson in respecting each other. I humbly present it to you and hope that it resonates with you as much as it did with me.

Jennifer’s debut has been touted by The Seattle Times, Wally Lamb, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Caroline Leavitt, SIBA, and a slew of early readers. She’ll be appearing at multiple events over the next few months, and you can find out where she is at jenniferhaupt.com/events.