Books·Canadian

What Strange Paradise

A novel by Omar El Akkad.

Omar El Akkad

More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another over-filled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives in their homelands. And only one has made the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who has the good fortune to fall into the hands not of the officials but of Vanna: a teenage girl, native to the island, who lives inside her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though she and the boy are complete strangers, though they don't speak a common language, she determines to do whatever it takes to save him.

In alternating chapters, we learn the story of the boy's life and how he came to be on the boat; and we follow the girl and boy as they make their way toward a vision of safety. But as the novel unfurls, we begin to understand that this is not merely the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world, it is the story of our collective moment in this time: of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair — and of the way each of those things can blind us to reality, or guide us to a better one. (From McClelland & Stewart)

What Strange Paradise is available in July 2021.

Omar El Akkad is a Canadian journalist and author who currently lives in Portland. He is also the author of the novel American War, which was defended on Canada Reads 2018 by actor Tahmoh Penikett.

Interviews with Omar El Akkad

Canadian journalist and author Omar El Akkad speaks with Chattopadhyay from his home in the woods of Oregon about what it's like to be on the front lines of the wild fires, as well as the pandemic and police brutality protests — mirroring the climate disaster, disease and political disruption he presaged in his 2017 novel, American War. For more, visit: www.cbc.ca/1.5726357 12:54

Other books by Omar El Akkad

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