ebook, 236 pages.
Read from March 20, 2022 to March 24, 2022.
“The West you talk about doesn’t exist. It’s a fairytale, a fantasy you sell yourself because the alternative is to admit that you are the least important character in your own story. You invent an entire world because your conscience demands it, you invent good people and bad people and you draw a neat line between them because your simplistic morality demands it. But the two kinds of people in this world are not good and bad, they are engines and fuel. Go ahead, change your country, change your name, change your accent, pull the skin right off your bones, but in their eyes they will always be the engines and you will always, always be fuel.”
This novel came in fourth during the Canada Reads 2022 debates. This novel was not the author’s first to grace the debates and his strength as a writer along with his personal refugee experience offer readers a rich and unique read.
What Strange Paradise follows the struggles of a young boy named Amir, who is the only survivor of a refugee boat crash. Every day new boats, wreckage, bodies and people show up on the shores of Vanna’s country. Vanna is a teenager but she is watching this humanitarian crisis unfold and can barely stomach the way her government and military are handling it. Luckily for Amir, it is Vanna that finds him and is willing to help him. The narration of the story moves from present to past, allowing the reader to slowly build the events that led to Amir’s arrival and meeting with Vanna.
This story puts a human face to those that have been forced to leave their homes for fear of death or persecution. Beautifully written, the author successfully creates a moving story, though it fell short of meeting the theme of the debates. I would highly recommend this novel to those looking for a novel on current political topics with a rich and engaging story.