Immaculée’s family, along with Augustine, spend the entire day of April 7th, 1994 listening to the radio. The Rwandan radio stations encourage Hutus to attack Tutsis with machetes. Just before evening, Immaculée finally leaves the radio and begins studying for her exams. Damascene is stunned by Immaculée’s ability to do so; Immaculée pretends to be strong and calm, when in reality she is simply doing anything to try to take her mind off what is going on around her. At one point, a foreign radio station plays a message from Paul Kagame, the leader of the RPF. He promises that if the massacre of Tutsis continues, the RPF will reinvade Rwanda and “fight to the death to protect their fellow Tutsis.”
Immaculée dismisses Damascene’s admiration of her ability to study by saying that studying is merely a distraction technique. However, the fact that she is able to pursue this kind of distraction in the first place is extraordinary. Throughout the book, Immaculée betrays a remarkable ability to switch off from her surroundings and immerse herself in a line of thought she chooses—whether studying, prayer, or positive visualization. Indeed, this skill is part of what enables her survival.
The next day, the BBC plays an interview with Agathe Uwilingiyimana, the moderate Hutu prime minister, who says that she and her family are trapped inside their house in Kigali. During the interview, the line goes dead, and Immaculée later learns that soldiers broke into her house and assassinated her while she was on air. Rose, who is in a “kind of trance,” packs the family’s belongings in suitcases. Yet Leonard insists that the RPF will stop the killings. For one of the only times in her life, Immaculée tells her father that he is wrong. Meanwhile, despite Immaculée’s assurances, Damascene remains convinced that he has “no future” and is going to die.
The fact that the prime minister was shot while on air shows the level of chaos into which Rwanda has descended. In such a situation, it simply becomes impossible to predict what is going to happen. As a result, Leonard and Immaculée’s attempts at reassurance ring hollow. Although everyone wants to believe that everything will be ok, there is no way of knowing whether or not this is true.
That night, the family hears that the ten Belgian UN peacekeepers who had been guarding Uwilingiyimana were also shot, and that the lives of all Belgians in Rwanda are under threat. In the morning, two dozen members of the Interahamwe throw grenades into houses in Mataba, killing those who try to escape with machetes. Immaculée’s family watches in horror as one of their neighbors is hacked to death in front of their eyes. Within a few hours, a couple of thousand villagers gather outside Immaculée’s house, waiting for guidance from Leonard. The scene almost resembles a “family picnic,” yet with the sound of grenade explosions in the background. Leonard assures his neighbors that they should stay calm and that they will find a solution together.
The strange image Immaculée depicts of the “family picnic” in the midst of a genocide highlights the surreal and horrific nature of the situation. Before the genocide began, Mataba functioned as a kind of family, with Leonard and Rose serving as parental figures to the villagers, offering advice, money, and other forms of assistance. Now this dynamic is being destroyed by the extreme violence. In contrast to the past, it seems that there is now little Leonard can do to help those in need.
That night, Leonard tells Immaculée that she needs to sleep and promises that he will protect her. Immaculée goes to bed but secretly cradles a small radio, which transmits worse and worse news as the night progresses. In the middle of the night, Immaculée goes downstairs to find that Rose has fallen asleep while guarding the door. Draped in a white sheet, she looks like a corpse, and this sight makes Immaculée burst into tears for the first time since the genocide began. She cries out to God about the injustice of the situation. However, she then tells herself that she needs to “save” her tears because things will surely get a lot worse.
Reality has become so strange and horrifying that Immaculée struggles to maintain her grasp of it. She clings to the radio in order to have information about what is happening around her, but these events are so surreal, chaotic, and ultimately unknowable that listening to radio reports does not provide much solace. Meanwhile, the vision of her mother resembling a corpse under the sheet is disturbingly prophetic. Perhaps on some level, Immaculée knows that her family is going to die.
In the early morning, Immaculée gently wakes Rose and assures her that everything is ok. She is shocked to see 10,000 Tutsis now camped out around her family home. Leonard, who has not slept, is assuring everyone that they will be ok. He encourages those gathered to trust God and know that “love will always conquer hatred.” However, Leonard also adds that if the government has taken the side of the killers, then it is likely they will all die. He encourages those listening to repent and pray for forgiveness. Leonard lifts his rosary in the air and declares that it does not matter whether they live or die; all that matters is that they stay strong and resist evil.
Leonard’s statement about the possibility of the government siding with the killers shows that he is becoming less naively optimistic about the situation. Indeed, he faces the prospect of death with the same calm confidence as Immaculée—a confidence rooted in faith. Perhaps Leonard’s earlier apparent naivete wasn’t naivete at all, but rather calm acceptance inspired by embracing God’s control over his fate.
Only a few hours later, Interahamwe attack the crowd outside Immaculée’s home. Leonard and a hundred other Tutsi men chase away the killers, but it is certain that this is only a momentary victory. After the attack Immaculée puts on her scapular, which Catholics wear in order to help ensure their passage to heaven. She brings it to Leonard and asks him to wear it. In return, Leonard gives her his rosary. Immaculée promises that she will always keep it with her.
The idea of parents as protectors of children has crumbled in the context of the genocide. Under such extreme circumstances, parents and children assume a mutual duty to protect and guide each other. Immaculée and Leonard’s exchange of the scapular and rosary conveys their total adoration and trust in one another.
Suddenly there are shouts announcing that the killers are back. Leonard runs toward them carrying his spear, while Rose runs after him screaming that if he goes alone he will certainly be killed. She shouts at the other Tutsi men in the crowd, asking why they are not supporting Leonard. While Rose and Leonard argue, the killers leave, perhaps because they saw the vast number of Tutsis gathered around the house. However, Immaculée knows that they will be back soon.
The assembly of Tutsis outside Leonard’s house confers a hint of hope; after all, there is strength in numbers. However, this strength is only made possible when each person is prepared to put themselves on the line for one another, and this passage suggests that this might not be true of the crowd outside Leonard’s house.
Damascene instructs Immaculée to stay with Pastor Murinzi, warning her that if the killers catch her, not only will she be murdered but also raped. At first Immaculée refuses to the leave the family, but Leonard agrees that, as a young woman, she must go. On Leonard’s suggestion, Immaculée takes Augustine with her. Leonard promises to come and collect Pastor Murnizi when the tensions blow over. These are the last words he will ever say to her.
Immaculée may be an exceptionally confident and brave young woman, but her gender makes her vulnerable to violence in ways that simply cannot be ignored. In the end, it is this vulnerability—or rather, the extra protection she receives because of it—that ends up saving her life.
Pastor Murinzi lives five miles away from Immaculée’s family. While Augustine and Immaculée are walking, they pass a crowd of Hutus carrying weapons, and Immaculée feels certain that they are about to be killed. However, God is watching over them. A Hutu friend of Leonard’s who is standing nearby warns the crowd not to hurt Immaculée or Augustine. Momentarily safe, they continue on their way.
This is the first of many moments in the novel where Immaculée is confronted face-to-face with killers, but miraculously escapes unharmed. The fact that this happens so many times is, to Immaculée, proof that God was watching over her and sparing her life for a special purpose.