Title: What Strange Paradise (Bookshop.org)
Author: Omar El Akkad
Published: 2022 (first published 2021)
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Literary
Source: Surrey Libraries
Thoughts: I really wanted to like the book, as I thought, and the others in my library book club also thought, that it would be a good read. And it was a good read; it's just that I couldn't get into it with the two different timelines that the author gave for the book. The book really needs to be read either closely or multiple times to really understand the two main timelines. It is definitely a fairly quick read, if you just want to go through it once, but I think that if you really want to understand the book, you may want to read it many times.
Bottom line: A really excellent read that needs to read multiple times to get a complete understanding of it. I just feel like there was something more to the book that I missed that would have completed my understanding of the book better. Recommended.
Description: From the widely acclaimed author of American War a new novel--beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic, and profoundly moving--that brings the global refugee crisis down to the level of a child's eyes.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.