Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin is a bittersweet novel set in Rwanda's capital as it seeks to rebuild, forgive and forget. Angel Tungaraza is a Tanzanian ex-patriot living in a block of units with a bunch of other ex-patriots of all different colours and creeds.
Angel is an expert baker and decorator of cakes. She makes cakes for children's birthdays, weddings, baptisms and other more unusual celebrations. Each client knocks on her door; she gives them a cup of tea and asks them their story. We hear of a Rwanda limping under the memory of past battles and groaning under the ever-present silent battle with HIV. And, as we hear each of their stories, so also is Angel's story unravelled.
She reminds me of Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Ramotswe. They help where others have hindered; heal where others have hurt; and exert their considerable influence for good in their communities.
I especially enjoyed the interaction between people of different cultures. The local Rwandan community welcome their African cousins but are suspicious of ex-patriots with lighter shades; the volunteer workers are treated differently to those on largish incomes; there is difficulty at times communicating across cultures and understanding one another. All these aspects of the book reflected my own experiences here.
Finally, I wish to propose that Angel spends some time in Vanuatu. There is a great desire for cake here. She can even use my oven!