A Review: The Illegal

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The Illegal, by Canadian author, Lawrence Hill is another opportunity to get to learn new Hill characters such as Keita Ali, Lulu, and Mrs. Ivernia Beech ( a tea drinking, cookie eating, fiercely independent senior citizen). Lawrence uses his writing skills to weave a robust cast of characters against the fictional lands of Freedom State and Zantoroland.

Keita Ali grew up wanting to be a winning, marathon runner. He trained and aspired against the backdrop of his homeland, Zantoroland, but due to the increasingly dangerous political circumstances of his homeland, he becomes a runner in Freedom State. Running becomes a metaphor for something much more than the physical act. Keita Ali runs from his homeland, and his old life and he runs towards a future as a man with a documented identity. He no longer experiences the joy of running. He runs for his freedom, and for his life and that of his sister. Set against the frightening existence of undocumented people fighting to survive while struggling to balance an undocumented existence while clinging to their identity is all too real in today’s world.

Although a fictional novel, The Illegal is a timely read as we witness  in the news the struggles of people who flee political and economic situations that none of us can truly understand.The news is filled with stories of people fleeing their homeland in search of a better life and that of those who have already fled but exist in the shadows due to their illegal status. It is in these shadows that Keita Ali exists and runs to survive.

The ending wraps up the conflicts that are so strongly developed throughout the book a little too tidily, but the book and its characters capture the reader and make the book an enjoyable read.

Click here to hear a recent interview of Lawrence Hill by the CBC’s The Next Chapter by Shelagh Rogers (@RogersShelagh).

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