The Illegal

The Illegal

A Novel

Book - 2015
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A literary thriller that addresses the fate of undocumented refugees who struggle to survive in nations that do not want them. 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. But when Keita fails to place among the top finishers, rather than being sent back to his own country, he goes into hiding.
Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, c2015
Edition: 1st ed
Branch Call Number: FICTION HIL
Characteristics: 392 p. ; 24 cm


From the critics

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Mar 12, 2020

Always like Hill's books, this one I enjoyed as it was a story about a runner.

Feb 19, 2020

After "Book of Negroes" I searched other books by Hill. While it was a good read, it was not a great read. The characters were somewhat unbelievable. The fictional countries made it seem a bit amateur somehow. While I appreciated certain things as a Canadian, the Tim Hortons reference was amusing, there was just too much that I felt was missing.
Some of the things in the story should have and needed to be expanded upon to really illustrate the motivation for the story. I wanted to go behind the doors in the "Pink Palace". I do not feel the underlying and eluded to story that Yoyo was working on was brought out enough - we got crumbs, but I wanted the whole cake.
Overall I feel like it was a chicken thigh of a story - it looked good, smelled good, but really just did not have enough meat to satisfy me.

Jan 26, 2020

Great book that demonstrate the struggles of an illegal immigrant through the use of fiction.

Aug 26, 2019

Tea & Talk Book Club / February 2019

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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!

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