Monday, June 2, 2014

Angel’s Cake (Baking Cakes in Kigali)

On 1994 Rwanda has been torn by ethnic genocide. Now in 2000, six years after the tragedy, the survivors are still in traumatic condition. Distrust and fear are still thickly clouding their daily lives. In this condition, the Turangaza family move in from Tanzania, and live in an apartment. Angel Tungaraza is a professional cake baker, and through this business Angel spread to the neighborhood the spirit of reconciliation. Reconciliation of the two ethnics that were fighting in the genocide: the Tutsis and the Hutus, as well as personal reconciliation with each of their pasts.

In Kigali, seems that everyone has experienced the losing (at least) a family member. Although coming from Tanzania (and did not experience the genocide), Angel and her husband, Pius, are also victims of traumatic experience of losing their children by death. AIDS, as we all know, is another deathly terror in Africa at that time besides Rwandan genocide. The Tungarazas’ children have died of AIDS, and now Angel and Pius must raise their grandchildren (five of them!) by themselves. Fortunately, in the time of resurgent after the tragedy, there are plenty of things to be celebrated. And, what is a celebration without a cake?

Since the best cake in Kigali is Angel’s, her business springs, and people from all background come to her apartment to order cakes. Gaile Parkin described the cakes to tiny details in every chapter, and that—apart from the people struggles—gives the book its unique attraction. Each chapter portrays each cake, each event of celebration, each individual, with each problem. Angel’s cakes are not only delicious in taste, but they are also impressive in decoration. The cakes are rich in colors (as the African like it) and they are tailor-made to the celebration itself (or the person who is celebrating it). But Angel does not run the business only for money, more than that, she helps her customers to regain happiness in her own simple way.

When customers come, Angel would let them sit down, and gives them her portfolio for their reference, while she is preparing her Tanzanian spiced tea, accompanied with cupcakes. She never runs out of these cupcakes because she used to make them from what’s left of the cakes she makes for customers. Over the tea and cupcakes—and most of all, her friendly but professional manner—Angel would drive her customers to tell their success—or bitter—stories of life. Being a good listener with tender heart, Angel often brings hope—if not solution—to them. And, as a bonus, she gets the order, plus the happiness of baking and decorating beautiful cakes, which is her passion.

Her most achievement is facilitating the marriage between Modeste, a guard in the apartment complex, and Leocadie, a girl who opens a local store. Their marriage symbolizes the reconciliation of the two hostile ethnic in the genocide: the Hutus (Leocadie) and the Tutsi (Modeste). The event seems to express that the Banyarwanda (Rwandans) are now ready to forget the past hostility, and begin a new life in peace, trust, and love. And in the end, the spirit of reconciliation and new hope are not only for the Rwandans, but it applies for all Africans (including Angel and Pius), and all of us wherever we live, to reconcile with the dark past, and realize that God offers us love and hope of a new life.

For a debut, Gaile Parkin has written a tremendous work. Angel’s Cake (Indonesian translation of ‘Baking Cakes in Kigali’) is a sweet and pleasant reading which bears a serious theme. It flows naturally and conveniently, offers sweetness (from the cakes things), a bit of mystery (from Angel’s traumatic past), and a lot of humanity aspects (love, racialism, freedom, etc.). I love it from the beginning, and the book certainly made me craving for cupcakes! :)

Four and a half stars for Angel’s Cake and Gaile Parkin!


I read the Indonesian translation from Qanita (Mizan Publishing group)

This book is counted as: