What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad [7/10]

What Strange Paradise” is a lyrically written tale of a nine-year-old Syrian boy washed up on the shore of a Western European island (Greece? Sweden?), the only survivor of a typically hapless refugee boat, and his fraught rescue, from the clutches of vicious local police, by an outsider teenage girl. The author provides a nuanced, panoramic, and ultimately heartbreaking portrait of the travails of modern-day refugees. The cat-and-mouse struggle to escape to freedom from the island made for tense reading, and although I found a backtracking narrative of the boy’s flight and voyage less compelling, this strand boosted what I had thought was a fairly good understanding of refugee chaos. The author is a superb stylist. The son of war refugees, I was ripe for What Strange Paradise and recommend it highly.

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