Strength In What Remains Book Summary By Tracy Kidder

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Strength in What Remains (2009) is a compelling story of a man who is torn away from his war-ravaged homeland, only to make it to America with little more than the shirt on his back.

But despite his lack of resources he never loses hope, displaying incredible strength and determination as he makes his way through New York City.

With the help of some kind souls along the way, he eventually finds success.

The book provides a powerful testament to how even small acts of kindness can have an incredibly profound impact on people from all over the world.

Strength in What Remains offers readers an inspiring journey full of hope, faith and opportunity.

Strength In What Remains Book

Book Name: Strength in What Remains (A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness)

Author(s): Tracy Kidder

Rating: 3.9/5

Reading Time: 18 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Tracy Kidder is an acclaimed author and his body of work has earned him much recognition.

He was the winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his book Mountains Beyond Mountains, and also received a Robert F.

Kennedy Award for his work on Among Schoolchildren.

He is well-known for his books The Soul of a New Machine, Strength in What Remains, as well as many other literary works.

The Inspiring Story Of Deo: How A Young Refugee Built A New Life

Built A New Life

Take a journey with Deo, who was forced to flee his country of Burundi as a result of the civil war.

With only $200 in his pocket and unable to speak English, Deo found himself completely alone in New York.

But he was not completely without hope–he soon encountered strangers who were willing to lend a helping hand.

Through their assistance, Deo was able to find places to stay, learn English and eventually study medicine at Columbia University.

Through this incredible story of courage, resilience and determination, follow Deo on an incredible journey from the horrors of the war in Burundi all the way to a successful career in medicine in the United States.

Discover how he overcame immense obstacles along the way and what ultimately drove him back home–to help those in need.

Deo Proves That Hard Work And Determination Can Overcome Even The Greatest Obstacles

Deo was a humble cowherd living in a rural community of Burundi, where electricity and a safe water supply were rare.

Despite this difficult environment, he and his family still valued education, so they made sure that Deo was able to attend school.

Though the educational system in Burundi at the time was rife with violence and political discrimination, Deo persevered, excelling in academics.

He worked incredibly hard to make the cut for one of Burundi’s best high schools despite having no political connections.

At this high school he continued to excel, making him eligible for medical school enrollment at the University of Burundi—a remarkable feat for someone from such humble beginnings.

Through hard work and determination, Deo was able to make something of himself despite facing huge odds.

The Flight For Survival: How Deo Escaped Death In Burundi’S Civil War

Things took a turn for the worse in 1993 when civil war broke out in Burundi due to the murder of the president, Melchior Ndadaye.

With tensions high between the predominant Hutu population and Tutsi-led military forces, Deo knew he had to act quickly or risk death.

He fled on foot from Burundi all the way to Rwanda – a 70 kilometer journey full of burning houses and dead bodies.

Once at the refugee camp in Rwanda, he soon realized that most of those gathered were actually Hutus fleeing from retaliation by Tutsis.

This put him in an increasingly dangerous position since it was entirely possible that he would encounter someone from Burundi who knows his identity.

So, he decided to make the journey back to Bujumbura where he had studied – although it was far from safe there as well.

Unfortunately, when Deo arrived at Bujumbura, he was unable to get in contact with his family and could only assume that they were dead.

But thanks to his courage and foresight in leaving quickly during civil war, tragedy was avoided – proving what strength lies within us all even during times of hardship.

The Power Of Kindness: How A Stranger’s Generosity Changed One Refugee’s Life


Deo’s story of escape from Burundi is made possible by the kindness of a stranger.

When faced with the eruption of violence, Deo’s wealthy friend Jean provided him with both a commercial visa and plane ticket to New York.

His arrival at JFK International, however, quickly turned into an ordeal when Deo was left stranded by strict immigration agents, who were unable to comprehend Deo’s lack of English and his intricate French.

To Deo’s rescue comes a Senegalese airport employee named Muhammad who acts as a translator for him.

Not content with just being a translator, Muhammad offered his own place for Deo to stay in while he figured out the next steps.

This kind gesture allowed Deo to survive those first days in New York without having to sleep on the street or take refuge in an overpriced shelter provisioned solely for immigrants.

To make ends meet, Muhammed also helped Deo get himself a job delivering groceries – though hours were long and pay minimal.

Through all this hardship and uncertainty, it is through the kindness of one individual that allowed someone like Deo to have hope amidst crazed chaos and survive those first precious days spent hundreds of miles away from home.

The Generosity Of Strangers: How One Man Found A Safe Haven In New York City

When Deo first arrived in New York, he stayed with a friend named Muhammad in an abandoned tenement.

But when Muhammad decided to leave for Senegal, Deo had to once again find a place to stay and soon enough he was out on the street with drunks and drug addicts.

This is where Deo met real trouble one day and he was forced to leave.

Having nowhere else to go, Deo lived in Central Park for several weeks; until one day he became so sick that he barely could move.

He didn’t have money or any means of paying for a doctor, but luckily just at that moment he ran into Sharon McKenna who served the poor at The Church of St.

Thomas More.

She decided to help Deo find a doctor and even pay his medical expenses!

McKenna didn’t just stop there though: she took the time to tell her friends, Nancy and Charlie Wolfs, about Deo’s story and they offered him his own room in their house!

They even went ahead and paid for Deo’s tuition at Hunter College and Columbia’s American Language Program so that he could continue his studies.

Through their kindness, Deo had been given another chance in life – all thanks to some selfless strangers determined to help him out of his desperate situation.

Deo’S Story: From Learning He Was Dead In Burundi To Helping His Family At Columbia

In 1995, Deo had a dream that he worked hard to make happen–enrollment at Columbia University.

After applying to the institution and submitting transcripts from medical school in Burundi, of which initially could not be found as records indicated Deo was dead, Deo began his freshman year majoring in biochemistry and philosophy.

Due to student loans, scholarships, and contributions from Nancy and Charlie, this became possible for him.

During his sophomore year, it all paid off- he secured unexpected news about his family: his parents were alive!

Just a few years prior Deo assumed everyone in his family perished due to ruthless acts of violence from the civil war in Burundi and Rwanda.

Although two of his brothers were no longer here with him, news that his parents survived kept hope alive.

To offer aid towards them during difficult times, Deo took up odd jobs such as tutoring high school students math and bartending on some evenings to send money back home.

Deo’s Determination Brings Him From Hopelessness To Medical School


When Deo graduated from Columbia, he wanted to become a medical student, but due to his lack of permanent residency in the United States, it seemed impossible.

His friend James O’Malley was working hard to help Deo get a green card, yet the process seemed interminable.

Without a green card, his dream of becoming a medical student remained out of reach.

Still, Deo persisted in searching for ways to stay involved with medicine despite the setbacks.

He stumbled across a book called Infections and Inequalities which described an organization called Partners In Health (PIH) that provided decent public health and medicine to some of the poorest people in the world.

Convinced that this was something he had to contribute too, Deo didn’t give up and managed to meet the author himself – Dr.

Paul Farmer.

Impressed by Deo’s story, Dr.

Farmer asked him to join PIH and take on small jobs such as reviewing literature and collecting data – tasks which would help fulfill his ambition for medicine even if he wasn’t able to enroll yet in medical school.

Fortunately for is persistence paid off when James O’Malley finally obtained permanent residency for him in the US.

With support from Paul Farmer as well as unrelenting resolve on his part; Deo finally got enrolled at Dartmouth medical school- proving that no matter what obstacles come your way you can find Strength in What Remains!

The Power Of Kindness: How Strangers Help Strangers To Survive And Thrive

Nancy and Charlie Wolf and Sharon McKenna had similar life experiences that predisposed them to offering Deo much-needed help.

Nancy and Charlie had lived in Nigeria for two years, during which time they were forced to stay in safe houses due to erupting violence.

This left a lasting impression on them, such that when they heard of similar violence occurring in Burundi, it all felt even more visceral.

In addition, Charlie was a country boy who grew up in rural area, while Nancy remembered being shocked at the sight of Deo, who was simply too skinny.

Lastly, the couple had no children—so perhaps adopting Deo into their home filled an emotional void for them.

For Sharon McKenna, she earned a small salary doing various jobs at the Church of St.

Thomas More.

But her self-assigned role there was to help anyone in need—so her background clearly led her to aiding Deo as well.

Both parties recall how grateful he was for their assistance—and afterwards wouldn’t consider this as anything other than the best thing ever happening to them!

The Power Of A Dream: How Deo’s Vision To Help His Community Led To A Clinic That Transformed Lives

Transformed Lives

In 2006, after medical school, Deo had the desire to give back to his home in Burundi and decided to take action.

He set out a plan to build a not-for-profit medical facility in his hometown with help from his friends from Partners in Health.

Deo hadn’t seen the village of his childhood since he left 14 years prior, but he was determined to make this dream a reality.

He had saved enough money over the years for his parents’ house and for the reconstruction of the old elementary school.

To aid him on the building process, many of Deo’s American friends came to Burundi for assistance and others raised money back home in the United States.

After months of hard work and dedication, Deo opened a clinic on November 7th, 2007 which included nurses and doctors from both Burundi and America.

In its opening year, it provided free medical assistance to an astonishing 20,000 patients!

Wrap Up

The Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder is a heart-warming story of an immigrants’ remarkable journey to success through difficult times.

Deo, a refugee from the Burundian Civil War, had nothing when he arrived in New York City in 1994 – no money, connections or even basic English skills.

Despite all this, his life changed for the better once he met some kind people who helped him through medical school and eventually back home to Burundi.

This powerful narrative is inspiring proof of strength amidst adversity and shows that with hope, nothing is impossible.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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