Monday 18 October 2021

What Strange Paradise

Finished October 18 
What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad

This book grabbed me and didn't let go. It's a short novel and a real page-turner. It starts with a scene on a beach on a Greek island, where bodies of refugees have washed ashore. Among them is a young boy, Amir, but he isn't dead, and when he rises, and sees people coming for him, he runs.
Following that scene, the story alternates with what led the boy to this place and what happens after he runs. In the before sequences, we see him and his family fleeing their home country of Syria and coming to Egypt, hoping to be accepted by a western country, and we see how he comes to be on a boat crossing the Mediterranean Sea and what happens on that boat. In the after sequences, we see him being found by a teenaged girl, and assisted. Vänna has a difficult home life and something about the boy and his vulnerability puts her in protective mode. As the two try to elude the soldiers looking for the boy, they make their way across the island, hoping for a way out. 
The characters of Amir and Vänna are well drawn, and you see their thoughts and their struggles, from Amir's uncertainty about his family's future and his confusion on the ship to Vänna's dissatisfaction with her life and her worry about Amir. The book is fast-moving and intense with some twists and surprises along the way. Highly recommended.

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