Left to Tell
Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
by Immaculee Ilibagiza
with Steve Erwin
Hay House, Carlsbad, California, 2006. 215 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #1 Nonfiction: True Stories
Left to Tell is an incredible book and tells an amazing story. Immaculee Ilibagiza survived the Rwandan holocaust by hiding in a tiny bathroom with seven other women. What’s more, they had to be absolutely quiet, and were often able to hear killers describing what they had done in exterminating “cockroaches,” even someone describing with glee how her own brother had died horribly.
You would think that a book that even mentions such horrors would be tremendously depressing. Instead, reading this book uplifted and inspired me.
You see, Immaculee, with God’s help, has been able to forgive the people who killed her family and devastated her country. The fiery trial has made her truly beautiful, and even her book radiates this beautiful, loving, and forgiving spirit.
I do appreciate that she never pretends the forgiveness came easily. She describes when they first went into hiding, how there seemed to be a constant negative voice saying they’d be found, they’d be killed. Later on, after she thought she was done forgiving, all the waves of anger and hatred came back when she saw her destroyed family home and her brother’s mutilated remains.
But Immaculee learned the power of prayer in combating those feelings and those voices of discouragement and hatred. Since she couldn’t speak to the other women, Immaculee spent most of the three months in the bathroom praying. Is it any wonder she grew to feel close to God?
And there were miracles of protection and comfort. A time when killers were specifically looking for her, on the other side of the door, she was given a vision of protection and saw a glowing cross standing in front of that door. And the killers never found her.
I’ve read many books on forgiveness since my husband left me. But books about the theories of forgiveness, although helpful, can’t begin to hold the power of this book showing practical forgiveness in action. The horrors perpetuated against Immaculee’s family and nation were astronomically beyond any wrongs I have ever suffered. After reading this book, those wrongs seem utterly inconsequential. If Immaculee can, by God’s power, forgive such horrors, and by doing so become a radiantly beautiful person, then surely I can forgive such tiny wrongs as have been done against me. And I do believe that such forgiveness will make me a tiny bit more beautiful.
The message I got from this book is how forgiveness is always worth it, no matter how difficult. I am so glad I read this radiant and inspiring story.