Rwanda comes across as an incredible country. The genocide produced 5.5 deaths every minute for 100 days. Adrien lost five brothers and a sister; when the 2011 Tour of Rwanda goes past his grandmother’s house he pedals faster to keep the memories at bay. Documentation disappeared in the atrocity, so the riders have to be given new birthdays ”” one nicknamed ”˜Rocky’ gets 6 July because it’s Sylvester Stallone’s.
The genocide’s longer-term consequences can be surprising: because so many men were killed, Rwanda ended up as the first country in the world whose parliament contained a majority of women. The book is good on culture shock; accustomed to packed local buses (known as twegerane, ”˜let’s stick together’), when the Rwandans visit America they all squeeze onto one row of a spacious people-carrier. In South Africa Adrien is confronted by his first ever bedsheets; he sleeps on top of them, afraid to cause a mess. Culture shock isn’t a one-way street, though: the Rwandans are amazed that the Americans keep animals in their homes.