Picks and Pans Review: Surviving Against All Odds

UPDATED 09/14/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/14/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Tracy Kidder |

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Pulitzer Prize-winner Kidder's uplifting, true story of Deogratias Niyizonkiza just may restore your faith in humanity. In 1993 "Deo," a Burundian peasant medical student, fled his impoverished country's ethnic civil war and neighboring Rwanda's genocide. Arriving in New York City with $200, emaciated and unable to speak English, Deo toils delivering groceries and sleeping in Central Park or in rat-infested tenements. Through astonishing perseverance and the kindness of strangers (like the New York woman who found a family Deo could live with), he ultimately triumphs, graduating from Columbia and Dartmouth Medical School and then opening a much-needed clinic in Burundi. You'll wonder why the Burundi atrocities, which killed over 200,000, didn't get more coverage here—and whether you could have survived as Deo did. "What happened happened," he tells Kidder at one point. Amahoro ("peace"), Deo.

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