What Strange Paradise. Omar El Akkad.

El Akkad, Omar. What Strange Paradise. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 2021. F;2/22.

This won the prestigious Canadian Giller prize for 2021 and I read it after The Listeners, one of the other shortlisted ones and was surprised, because of apparently virtue-signalling decisions on winners in previous years, that I thought this story was pretty impressive.

A young boy is the only survivor of a horribly capsized migrant boat headed for Europe from Africa. He escapes from authorities on the fictitious island where he lands alive on a beach among dozens of corpses, and is helped by a 15-year-old girl and others to try to find his way to a clandestine escape off the island. Chapters jump from “before” to “after” in respect of the boat’s catastrophe, and there’s plenty of suspense and terror gripping both the on-board migrants and the boy and his older friend, building to two different climaxes.

Of course we are disturbed at the injustice and misfortune of sub-Saharan African people trying to escape, and the vicious advantage taken of them by liars offering transportation and the inhumanity of protective governments fending them away from Western countries. But this author isn’t punitively rubbing our noses in that as for example Megan Coles was in her Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club. El Akkad is at the same time credibly emotionally involved with his characters and benignly objective about the opposing powerful after all disinterested circumstantial forces affecting them. I finish his book moved and maybe a wee bit wiser.

Recommended. 8.9/9.1

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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1 Response to What Strange Paradise. Omar El Akkad.

  1. Sounds very interesting, John… thanks 😀👍… I am reading Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex… cheers, Ron

    On Mon, Jan 31, 2022 at 1:09 PM John Sloan’s Reviews wrote:

    > John Sloan posted: ” El Akkad, Omar. What Strange Paradise. McClelland and > Stewart, Toronto, 2021. January 2022 This won the prestigious Canadian > Giller prize for 2021 and I read it after The Listeners, one of the other > shortlisted ones and was surprised, because of ap” >

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