I adore this little novel. Set in modern-day Rwanda, Baking Cakes in Kigali beautifully intertwines the stories of everyday Rwandans through the lens of a charismatic yet incredibly warm protagonist, Angel Tungaraza. Angel runs a successful cake business in Kigali targeting middle-class Rwandans as well as expats. When customers come to her house to place an order, she brings out some baked goods and sugary tea and listens to their stories.
While the writing itself not the greatest literary achievement of the 21st century, it gives you an insight into the modern Kigali like no guidebook / history book would. It’s a treat to learn about complex characters through their celebrations and moments of grief.
I love the dialogues in this book. They contain such vivid imagery, proverbs, and personal quirks. Read the below exchange between Angel and Dr. Rejoice from Chapter 5.
“You didn’t see me!”
“How was I to guess that you were sitting behind a purple plastic dustbin?” laughed Dr. Rejoice. “Are you okay, my dear?”
“Oh, I’m fine, really. I was inside the shop when I began to feel hot like someone had thrown a blanket over my head, so I had to come outside. They brought me a stool to sit here in the shade till I feel better.”
“Then let me ask them to bring a stool for me, too. I’ll sit with you a few minutes.”
Angel serves as the glue in her apartment complex, connecting people together and nudging them to take care of each other. Who knows? Maybe the next entrepreneur you will meet and shadow fills such a role in his or her own community. Just pull up a chair and sit for a while. It will open up your world.