After seven weeks in the bathroom, the women are all frighteningly thin. They haven’t washed or changed clothes since their arrival and have thus developed an awful infestation of body lice. Nonetheless, Immaculée feels “beautiful” through her connection with God. She gets sick twice while in the bathroom, but both times has complete trust that after everything, God will not let her die from a simple illness.
The intensity of Immaculée’s faith means that she has transcended bodily experience. Like a nun or a saint, Immaculée’s relationship with God is so close that she becomes distanced from the physical reality of the mortal world. This allows her to survive and eases her suffering.
One day, Pastor Murinzi excitedly tells the women that the United Nations is considering sending peacekeeping troops back to Rwanda, which might put a stop to the genocide. The pastor explains that because most of the RPF soldiers grew up in Uganda, they speak English, and that even those who know French refuse to speak it. Suddenly, God puts an idea in Immaculée’s mind. She realizes that the RPF are going to win the war, that she will meet many English-speaking people after the genocide ends, and has a “premonition” that she will work at the United Nations. The next day, she asks Pastor Murinzi for a French-English dictionary and any other books he has in English. She says that if she learns English she will be able to tell everyone how brave he was after the genocide ends.
It is remarkable that in the midst of her battle for survival in an apocalyptic moment, Immaculée still has the capacity for hope, positive thinking, planning, and self-education. The future may be completely unknown to her, but her faith in God makes her trust that there will be life after the genocide. This is because she believes that if God spared her, it was for a special reason or purpose. It is up to Immaculée to figure out what this purpose is and work toward achieving it—even if she remains confined to a tiny bathroom.
Flattered, Pastor Murinzi brings Immaculée the dictionary and the only two English books he has, and she immediately gets to work. At the end of her first day of study, she proudly mouths the first sentence she has learned how to say: “I am Immaculée.” As she keeps studying, she focuses on the words that will be most important in helping to tell her story: “escape, hiding, war, prayer, job, and God.” Discovering a section of the dictionary dedicated to grammar is like receiving “manna from heaven.” After Immaculée has read the books Pastor Murinzi gave her countless times, she borrows pen and paper and begins writing a letter to the kind, honest UN soldier she imagines saving them.
Immaculée’s first sentence in English demonstrates why the experience of learning a new language is so important to her in this moment. Expressing herself in English is a way for Immaculée to assert herself and her own humanity, and to tell her story. Because English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, mastering it will allow Immaculée to communicate her story to as many people as possible. As a result, she sees learning English as a gift straight from God.
In June, Immaculée is reunited with the man she dated for two years in university, John. They’d fallen out when John called off their engagement party at the last minute, but she’d always imagined that they would ultimately remain together. During her time in the bathroom, she had kept him in her prayers, hoping he was safe from the killings. John arrives along with much of Pastor Murinzi’s extended family, who have evacuated their homes in Kigali after the RPF arrived in the city. Immaculée is thrilled to hear John’s voice through the bathroom window.
This is the first time Immaculée has even mentioned the end of her engagement to John. For many people, such a thing would constitute a major life event. Yet Immaculée’s life has become so abnormal and tumultuous that it barely registers. She may have been hurt by John calling off the engagement, but in the context of the genocide it scarcely seems to matter.
Late that night, John comes to see Immaculée in the bathroom and the two of them embrace tightly. John is shocked by how thin Immaculée has become, and he says that he has been praying that nobody had raped or killed her, before adding: “here you are, alive and unraped!” Immaculée feels awkward. John does not seem like the same person she knew before the genocide. Over time, she begins to resent his freedom and comfort, as well as the lack of care and respect he is showing her. She reads 1 Corinthians 13:4, reminding herself that “love is patient and kind,” and this assures her that her relationship with John is not the one she truly wants. He doesn’t make an effort with her, and when she confronts him about it he replies that there are “no other men looking at you.” At this moment, Immaculée knows their love is gone.
Immaculée may believe in the importance of patience, forgiveness, humility, and unconditional love, but this does not mean that she has to put up with bad treatment by others. Indeed, throughout the book Immaculée also exhibits an impressive capacity to stand up for herself. This capacity emerges from the confidence and self-love she possesses as a devoutly religious person. She knows that God loves her and sees her as special, and thus she expects others to treat her with respect.