The Illegal

The Illegal

A Novel

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
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Keita Ali is on the run. He is desperate to flee Zantoroland, a mountainous black island that produces the fastest marathoners in the world. Keita signs on with notorious marathon agent Anton Hamm, who provides Keita with a chance to run the Boston marathon in return for a huge cut of the winning purse. But when Keita fails to place among the top finishers, rather than being sent back to his own country, he goes into hiding in Freedom State a wealthy nation that has elected a government bent on deporting the refugees living within its borders in the community of AfricTown. Keita can be safe only if he keeps moving and eludes Hamm and the officials who would deport him to his own country, where he will face almost certain death. This is the new underground. A place where tens of thousands of people deemed to be illegal live below the radar of the police and government officials. As Keita surfaces from time to time to earn cash prizes by running local road races, he has to assess whether the people he meets are friends or enemies: John Falconer, a gifted student intent on making a documentary about AfricTown; Ivernia Beech, an elderly woman who is at risk of being forced into an assisted living facility; Rocco Stanton, a recreational marathoner who is the Immigration Minister; Lula DiStefano, self-declared Queen of AfricTown and Madame of the community s infamous brothel; and Viola Hill, one of the only black reporters in the country, who is investigating the possibility of corruption linking the highest officials in Freedom State and Zantoroland. Keita s very existence in Freedom State is illegal. As he trains in secret, eluding capture, the stakes keep getting higher. Soon, he is running not only for his life, but his sister s life, too. Fast-moving and compelling, The Illegal is a literary thriller that addresses the fate of undocumented refugees who struggle to survive in nations that do not want them.
Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton & Company, 2016
Edition: First American edition
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780393070590
039307059X
Branch Call Number: HILL
Characteristics: 392 pages : map ; 25 cm

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m
mahbrum2
Jun 22, 2017

This book is very a lyrical presentation of people without proper document to state their original birthplace and how it affects citizenship in a foreign country.

It really opened up my eyes as to how right wing nationalistic governments can change laws to incarcerate undocumented people even undocumented people that could help the country.

It's a tough subject that is handled with love and appreciation.

Disparate characters come together to help themselves in a loving way.

a
alibraryguy
Apr 10, 2017

I am baffled by the glowing reviews this book has received. The critics ought to be ashamed of themselves for pouring on the praise for such egregious junk. Hill fails dismally in his attempt to bring any illumination to the refugee crisis. With its implausible, fabricated countries, Fiction-Writing-101 stock characters, awkward narrative and cliché-ridden dialogue, he does a disservice to the real issues. This is one hot mess of a book. I just wanted it to be over and wouldn't have read past page 50 if it wasn't for my book club. What a waste of my treasured reading time!

i
indutalwar
Feb 14, 2017

Interesting book- I did not want to put it down - relevant in light of Trump's policy of deporting undocumented aliens.

m
markd
Jan 10, 2017

I really enjoyed this story.

a
atomik
Dec 13, 2016

I really enjoyed Hill's Book of Negroes, consequently was HUGELY disappointed with The Illegal. The narrative and dialogue were stilted and simplistic, and try as I might, I couldn't embrace any of the cardboard characters, especially the hero. The narrative was not gripping, in fact it was ordinary. It had the feel of something that was knocked off in a hurry to fulfill a publishing contract. Just sayin'... Atomik

PS - I just read The Illegal's media accolades on this site. Got the sinking feeling that Canada's Literary Media Elite were (rightfully) in awe of 'Negroes' (especially after it became a TV series), and thus fell all over themselves fawning about The Illegal... afraid to offend the new toast of the town? Feeling trapped because they (rightfully) raved about Negroes?? Media herd mentality? Clubby rat-packism??? What would our truly independent Rex Murphy have to say about The Illegal? Very little that was nice, I suspect.

PPS - Neither did half the readers (below)... My money's on the 'little people' who make up the reading public.
Atomik, over 'n' out.

r
rodraglin
Dec 13, 2016

The Illegal reads like a fairy tale, poorly written

Zantoroland is a small island called ruled by an evil dictator. People from Zantoroland are black, poor and friendly. The only thing good about Zantoroland is it produces the fastest long distant runners in the world. Keita, the protagonist is one of them.

Fifteen hundred kilometres across the Sea of Ortiz is Freedom State, a far larger island, a democracy and one of the wealthiest nations in the world. People from Freedom State are mostly white, mostly rich and mostly bigots.

The people of Zantoroland are trying to get to Freedom State anyway they can for obvious reasons. The people of Freedom State are tired of illegal immigrants for obvious reasons and have elected a quasi-fascist government to find and deport them.

When Keita's father is murdered by the evil dictator he must flee and ends up in Freedom State. Unfortunately, the evil dictator has kidnapped his sister and is demanding Keita pay a ransom for her release.

As an illegal the only way Keita can make money to pay the ransom is to win long distance races.

This is the premise behind The Illegal by Lawrence Hill.

This preposterous plot is further hobbled by stereotypical characters including the aforementioned evil dictator, a whore with a heart of gold, a female cop that answers to love rather than her commander, a feisty old lady, and a sleazy, unethical prime minister and his sociopathic assistant.

The political machinations in The Illegal are convoluted to the point of being ridiculous. On every level, except for the running, this novel lacks authenticity and credibility.

The first sentence of The Illegal should have began , "Once upon a time..." The last, "And they lived happily, ever after."

Writing lacks elegance. Unless you are a runner, initial plot development provides way too much detail about running culture. The denouement is a simplistic and intellectually insulting wrap up and he did not bother to tell us what happened to the charming and heroic old woman whose son was threatening to have her institutionalized. The book is only worth my reading time because of the background into immigration scams but even that analysis is superficial.

s
spudwil
Sep 04, 2016

I am finding this book very difficult to finish as it's so boring. A big disappointment as I so loved Book of Negroes. It's almost like he had a ghost writer do it, it's so sub-standard. I'm shocked that it won any award at all. Fictional countries with ridiculous names just plopped into the ocean among real world geography? Is this science fiction? And there just happens to be a Tim Horton's in one of these fictional countries?! The story's stereotypical characters and ridiculous plot is impossible to believe and does nothing to shine any light on the current refugee crisis. I agree with the other critics that this seemed like a writer on a deadline to a big publisher churning out an undeveloped draft. I wonder how the author himself feels about the finished product.

j
January1545
Jul 06, 2016

Definitely not as good as I had been led to believe by the critics and prizes. I didn't like the fact that Hill chose to write about mythical, allegorical countries and did find the novel satisfying.

l
lindsey
Jun 26, 2016

Drivel. Don't bother. I'm shocked it won the Canada Reads prize. We need to raise our standards.

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