Prather’s Pick: ‘Escaping the Darkness” explores perseverance, forgiveness, triumph
January 9, 2018
This week's novel for adults was written by Debra Shelton. Craig residents may remember her as Debra Lueck. During the time she lived in Craig, she was an artist and daycare provider. She is the author of "Escaping the Darkness: Journey to Sanctuary," published by Sonlight Publishing, Ltd. (2017).
Recently, I visited with Debra by phone. She told me she traveled to Africa in 2004. In the bush country of Zambia, she built an orphanage and a community school. The orphanage became a home to an average of 85 children, and 120 children attended the school. Some walked two hours to get there.
While in Africa, Debra became friends with a young Rwandan orphan refugee who shared her experiences of survival and escape during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when her family was slaughtered. Debra was inspired by the girl's stories, and she spent three years researching the genocide. Her novel, though fictional, is based on what she learned. The young girl's stories are incorporated into the characters of the novel.
"Escaping the Darkness" is divided into three parts, each a story of a Rwandan character who escaped during the genocide. The first part is titled "Xavier's Journey," and begins in Rwanda in April 1994. Xavier Mwena and his friend, Pawulo Gnomiwa, are in the city of Kigali, where chaos prevails. There are rumors about an explosion in which President Habyarimana was killed. Because he is dead, the Arusha Peace Accords between the Hutus and Tutsis is dead, as well. The Hutu are looking to find and kill any Tutsi, so thousands of people are on the move to escape the city.
Xavier wonders about his family. When his mother died, he promised her he would help his father care for his three younger brothers — Theo, Phillipe, and Frederic — and his infant sister, Precious. Xavier decides he needs to go home, and Pawulo goes with him.
It isn't an easy journey; danger lurks at every turn. Finally, both young men are shot and left for dead. Samson, a farmer, rescues the men. Pawulo isn't as badly hurt, but it's touch-and-go for Xavier. Samson gets them to his house, where his wife tries to patch the men up. However, she warns Samson that, unless he gets Xavier to a doctor, he will die.
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Samson puts his own life in danger to take Xavier to a hospital, and Xavier's life is in for a big change.
"Precious' Journey" and "Betta's Journey" are the other two stories in the novel. A map at the end of the book marks the journey traveled by each of the characters. The book also has a glossary and a list of discussion questions.
Some of the book's details are brutal, but Debra wrote that she "wanted to focus on their (the characters') triumphs over circumstances and how they persevered and became stronger in the end."
You can find this book at Downtown Books in Craig or at amazon.com. It costs $12.99.
It is also available at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries.
Debra's next book, a sequel titled "Escaping the Darkness: Journey to Freedom.