Here’s a basic plot set up. The main character is Angel Tungararza, and she is known for her delicious cakes. She and her husband Pius, as well as their five grandchildren move to Rwanda after Pius takes a job at the local university.
A majority of Baking Cakes in Kigali centers on Angel’s conversations with the residents of Kigali who come to purchase her cakes. Angel and her customer sit down for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. These conversations center around various social issues such as the shortage of men in Rwanda, genocide, homosexuality, prostitution, AIDS, and more.
Parkin eases the blow of learning about the tragic events in Rwanda by writing in a easy, conversational tone. It is amazing how a cup of tea and a slice of cake can encourage people to reveal their deepest troubles and darkest secrets.
It was really neat to read from an African perspective, and even more unique to have it set in modern day Africa. Cell phones and computers are still not common place. Can you imagine life without a computer?
I do admit that this book can be a slow read. Sometimes I felt like it should have picked up speed, but overall, it was an enjoyable book.
“Parkin touches tellingly on a large number and wide range of troubling and contentious social issues that exist just as much in Western industrialized countries as they do in the Kigali environment that forms the locus of her novel, such as the introduction of Muslim religious views and cultural practices, homosexuality, prostitution, infidelity, female circumcision, AIDS, and much more as just what being part of the human variety entails among her wide circle of friends and acquaintances in a newly formed multi-cultural, urban environment. Beyond that, Parkin invokes an African perspective on historical events that underlie what probably endures as at least antipathy toward the foreigners (“Wazunga”), who overran and broke up the African continent with no consideration for the inhabitants, as well as nationalistic and feminist sensibilities.”
“Part of what I enjoyed so much about this book, apart from the wonderful characters that populate its pages, was that Parkin manages to address these potentially depressing, horrifying subjects while maintaining a tone of hope and renewal.”