Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile ParkinThis is a story of modern Rawanda with a cast of local and expatriate characters who visit Angel Tungararza to purchase her special occasion cakes. Angel’s husband is a visiting university professor from Tanzania and she runs her small business as a way to meet people and earn some extra cash. As each customer arrives at her apartment she serves them tea and listens to their stories while they browse through her cake decorating catalogue. From prostitutes to soldiers, Angel becomes involved in the lives of her customers and neighbours and finds ways to bring them together, as well as to decorate the perfect theme cake.

What the Armchair Critics Thought:
We very much enjoyed this book and found it very reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith’s Number One Ladies Detective Agency. The book covers many social issues, but does not preach or moralize. As always, it was fascinating to capture a glimpse of a foreign country and the little traditions and customs of everyday life (such as the tailor who always made the clothes a little small so that people would need alterations, and the way the ladies would circumvent this by bringing a friend to put three fingers inside of the tape measure while he took the measurements). Although the book deals with violent and impoverished lives, it does so with a sense of hope. The characters have moved beyond the 1994 genocide, and are working together and helping one another build a better future.

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