In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills
Jennifer Haupt

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 amongst the gaping wounds of a healing country, follow the intertwining stories of three women who discover something unexpected: grace when there can be no forgiveness.


“Jennifer Haupt's In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is both an evocative page-turner and an eye-opening meditation on the ways we survive profoundly painful memories and negotiate the complexities of love. I was deeply moved by this story.” — Wally Lamb, author of She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True

“This blazingly original novel is about the illusions of love, the way memory can confound or release you, and the knotted threads that make up family—and forgiveness. Profound, powerful, and oh, so, so moving.” — Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author

“This astonishing debut novel about an American woman's search for her father in Rwanda knits together intricate, complex stories of love and the destructive forces of society that tear families apart. Haunting and delicately told, Jennifer Haupt enters the heart of Rwanda's darkest hour and shows us where to find the light." — Jessica Keener, author of Strangers In Budapest

“Jennifer Haupt takes readers on a journey that spans from the turmoil of Civil Rights Era Atlanta to an orphanage in Rwanda born of unspeakable tragedy. Haupt guides both the survivors in this hopeful story that transcends race and cultural differences and readers toward the courage to believe in love again. An important story reminding us that when a crime is unforgivable, only grace will do.” — Susan Henderson, Founder of LitPark blog, author of Up From the Blue

"In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is a beautifully written novel that tells a compelling story. I was deeply moved by it. Jennifer Haupt is a gifted writer, whose heart is as large as her considerable talents." — Steve Yarbrough, author of The Realm of Last Chances

"Jennifer Haupt has woven an intricate and moving tale of family and culture, of conflict and love, and of the challenges of healing after unthinkable loss. Told with remarkable compassion and grace, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills is a story everyone should read." Therese Anne Fowler, NY Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald


The girl waits. The silver threads of a spider’s web swoop precariously over the top left corner of a window frame. There are no rays of warm light seeping through cracked glass. There is no slight breeze, no swaying jacaranda branch heavy with purple blossoms her mother sometimes plucked before church and pinned to the brim of her straw hat. These luxuries disappeared hours, perhaps days, ago.

She is not sure how long she’s been curled up in the darkness, under the frame of a stepladder tented with a blue tarp. Long enough so that there is only the faintest odor of paint, turpentine and a piney cleanser. Long enough that her empty stomach no longer gurgles, and the certainty of a machete blade slitting her neck no longer brings up the sour taste of fear. For as long as she can remember, her family has lived with the threat of death—maybe today, maybe tomorrow—as if each day is a gift, easily snatched away. It occurs to her that fear is what has given the Hutus their power. The boys who sometimes shove her into the dirt while walking to school, and the men who come to take her father’s crops. It is some small comfort that they no longer have power over her.

She presses one eye against a ragged triangle of light, scraped open with a rusty nail. It only distracts her mind for a few seconds at a time but that’s enough to suppress the urge to run from this place. There is nowhere to run, nothing to do but wait. Nose pressed to plastic, there is only the shimmering web; no screams, no church bells clanging, no shattering glass, no gunshots that pulse behind her eyes, no ache in her groin, no pieces of prayers.

There is barely enough room, even knees pulled to chest, between the steel rails of the ladder. Still, the girl rocks back and forth, back and forth. She pulls an oversized flannel shirt down over bare knees and hooks it under curled toes. She hums without making a sound, the force of her breath vibrating in her chest, a Kinyarwanda lullaby her mother used to sing every night. Umama sings to her, still, louder than the bass pumping from a boom box, primal and urgent, too loud to be mistaken for music.

She waits, watching the web until the shiny black insect with spindly golden legs floats back into sight. It’s a relief to see the spider fortifying her home, spinning away. As long as the spider is in view, there is a small hope that the man who wrapped his shirt around her and told her to wait, to make herself small and quiet and hide somewhere safe in her mind, might also return.