What Strange Paradise

Omar El Akkad. Knopf, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-525-65790-3
Akkad (American War) delivers a stirring if straightforward account of a young boy’s flight from Syria during the country’s civil war. Amir Utu sets out for Egypt with his mother, uncle/stepfather Younis, and baby stepbrother. When Younis boards a ferryboat overloaded with migrants, Amir follows him and ends up on a disastrous journey across the Mediterranean, of which he is the sole survivor. The details of what went wrong emerge gradually: first, Amir flees from soldiers on an unnamed island’s beach. He is then found by disaffected 15-year-old Vänna Hermes, who helps him evade detention. Here, Akkad explores a world in which migrants routinely wash up dead on the beach and are viewed as an inconvenience for wealthy tourists. The chapters alternate between the “Before” and “After” of Amir’s arrival on the island, chronicling the characters and challenges Amir faces on the boat and on land, and depicting the injustice, intolerance, and violence that refugees face in a hostile global landscape. The result is a moving if somewhat predictable story of survival and the need for compassion and camaraderie across languages, cultures, religions, and borders. While readers may find themselves wishing for more complexity, there is plenty of moral clarity. Agent: Anne McDermid, CookeMcDermid. (July)
Reviewed on : 05/05/2021
Release date: 05/01/2021
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-7710-5030-5
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-593-39657-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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