The Illegal

The Illegal

Book - 2016
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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 Statea 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: FIC Hill
Characteristics: 392 pages

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o
OP_2
Aug 26, 2019

Tea & Talk Book Club / February 2019

k
kwsmith
Feb 03, 2019

Keita is an illegal black immigrant from a poor country who earns his living as a marathon runner in a rich country full of white people. There are two ways to read this book: 1) as social commentary which asserts that illegal immigrants have unrecognized value, and 2) as an entertaining work of fiction. I wasn't sold on the social commentary mostly because most of the characters in the book are too awesome to be believable. For example, all of the illegals seem to be Olympic level athletes, math geniuses, or PhD scholars educated at Harvard university. Despite that small concern, the book remains a fast-paced and entertaining work of fiction. I was a tiny bit disappointed that this book is not as good as Hill's earlier excellent work, *The Book of Negroes*; however, it is still a good enough book on its own merits.

h
Havanacat
Jan 08, 2019

People. A timely book written by a character master. You get to know the characters' innermost fears, joys, quirks, and hearts.

The biting commentary on racial politics in The Illegal speaks to our present woes, but the engaging characters of Keita Ali, elite marathoner and refugee; Viola Hill, wheelchair bound reporter; Ivernia Beech, subversive library volunteer; and John Falconer, boy genius make the ride worthwhile. This book was the Canada Reads 2016 winner.(Submitted by Meghan W.)

d
Dream24
Aug 30, 2018

I recall this book being highly recommended on several lists the year it came out, so I just had to read it.

This was definitely an interesting read. While the main focus was on Keita Ali, a runner from Zantoroland, and his life leading up to the big moment, we also focus on a few other people who's actions and encouragement aid or provide obstacles for Keita along the way. Zantoroland is going through some major political changes while Keita is growing up, so much so that his father was forever silenced for writing about the blunt truth, his sister is in danger and his mother forever lost in the system.

There is definitely hope, redemption and survival involved. The more you get to know Keita, the more you are rooting for him to win and rise above poverty, politics and all the other hardships along the way. Keita has the potential to be an amazing runner, and a lot of people along the way see this potential and do what they can to help. I definitely like the older lady, she is feisty and knows how to play the system. The boy and his determination to make his documentary about his shanty town area, that everyone in Freedom State frowns upon and wants desperately to wipe off of their maps. Viola who does what it takes to push beyond the stereotypes for people like her.

This was definitely an interesting read.

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.

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