In 1968, a disillusioned and heartbroken Lillian Carlson left Atlanta after the assassination of Martin Luther King. She found meaning in the hearts of orphaned African children and cobbled together her own small orphanage in the Rift Valley alongside the lush forests of Rwanda.
Three decades later, in New York City, Rachel Shepherd, lost and heartbroken herself, embarks on a journey to find the father who abandoned her as a young child, determined to solve the enigma of Henry Shepherd, a now-famous photographer.
When an online search turns up a clue to his whereabouts, Rachel travels to Rwanda to connect with an unsuspecting and uncooperative Lillian. While Rachel tries to unravel the mystery of her father's disappearance, she finds unexpected allies in an ex-pat doctor running from his past and a young Tutsi woman who lived through a profound experience alongside her father.
Set against the backdrop of a country grieving and trying to heal after a devastating civil war, follow the intertwining stories of three women who discover something unexpected: grace when there can be no forgiveness.
A woman's pursuit of the truth about what happened to her father leads her to post-genocide Rwanda in Haupt's ambitious debut. Rachel Shepherd's search for her estranged father, photographer Henry Shepherd, leads her to an orphanage in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda in the year 2000. There she meets and is welcomed by Lillian Carlson, an African-American woman from Atlanta who runs an orphanage that she built with Henry after he left his family in New York. Lillian welcomes Rachel but says no one has heard from Henry in two years. Rachel stays on in the hopes of learning more. She meets Nadine, a young Tutsi woman who barely survived the 1994 massacres; Tucker, a Californian doctor; and many others who live with memories Rachel cannot even fathom. Their stories and the photos Henry left behind help her to understand what it really means to have strength of character and to love. Unfortunately, Nadine is the only major character who is Rwandan; the rest are American, leaving the reader disconnected from the people whose plight constitutes one of the major themes of the book. But the Rwanda described in the text is beautiful, a place where "pink winged geese glide among over-sized purple lilies that bow like ladies in waiting," and, like the main narrative, it is alive with people working to come together and heal. Even though it's ostensibly about the Rwandan genocide, Haupt's story is one of humanity and hope.