1st ed.
Publisher, Date:
Toronto, Ontario : HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2015.
392 p. ; 24 cm.
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.
9781554683833 (hardcover)
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Author Notes
<p> Lawrence Hill was born in 1957 in Newmarket, Ontario. He earned a B.A. in economics from Laval University in Quebec City and later an M. A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University. Hill taught undergraduate fiction writing while completing his M.A. at Johns Hopkins, and since graduating has taught creative writing in numerous adult education programs. He has worked as a full-time newspaper reporter for The Globe and Mail and The Winnipeg Free Press. He has authored several books. Hill's nonfiction books include Trials and Triumphs: The Story of African-Canadians, Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada , The Deserter's Tale: The Story of An Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq, and Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book: An Anatomy of a Book Burning. Hill's fictional works include Some Great Thing, Any Known Blood ,The Book of Negroes, and The Illegal. The Book of Negroes won several awards including the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Prize. <p> (Bowker Author Biography)
Fiction/Biography Profile
Keita Ali (Male), Runner, Athlete, Refugee, Marathon runner; running means respect and wealth in her native country Zantoroland; has to flee the country after his father is killed
Marathon running
Political corruption
Death of a parent
Illegal aliens
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

In this story of a refugee from a fictionalized land, Canadian novelist Hill imagines the current global refugee crisis through the lens of a single man's flight to a xenophobic (and eerily familiar) Freedom State. (LJ 12/15) © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

Hill, author of the critically acclaimed Someone Knows My Name (2007), here turns to the plight of illegal immigrants in a deeply satisfying story shot through with humor and humanity. Keita Ali, a gifted runner, is forced to leave his home country when his father, a famed journalist, is killed by their repressive government. Keita knows that his life is also in danger and signs up with a ruthless sports agent, who sends him to the neighboring, wealthy Freedom State to compete in marathons. But then Keita learns that his sister has been arrested and will only be released for $15,000, and he knows what he must do: earn as much prize money as he can to save his sister's life. Hill threads his story with compelling details on the athleticism of elite runners while also laying out the desperation of illegal immigrants, who are constantly scrounging for food and money while living in fear of being deported. Secondary characters, including a feisty, disabled reporter; an accomplished black policewoman; and a white philanthropist, round out the cast in a timely and affecting story.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2015 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

A Commonwealth Award-winning writer threatens to make readers of this breakneck thriller as out-of-breath as its long-distance-running hero. African-Canadian novelist Hill (Someone Knows My Name, 2007, etc.) ramps up thematic urgency in this white-knuckler set three years in the future in two mythical countries, Zantoroland, a dystopian black nation (suggesting, but never specifying, an African locale), and Freedom State, which could stand for any relatively prosperous multicultural democracy seeking a clamp-down on its surge of illegal immigrants. Among the latter is Keita Ali, a gifted marathoner literally running for his life to the Freedom State from his native Zantorolandwhere his father, a dissident journalist, was savagely murdered. Though he is, so to speak, freer to run road races in his new homeland, Keita doesn't find much safety there as he competes under an assumed name (that of famed British miler Roger Bannister) and is exploited by a slimy track-and-field agent who, it turns out, is just one of many corrupt individuals of every color and social strata treating even legally documented immigrants with malign intent. Kidnapping, blackmail, murder, and looming scandal further complicate and eventually endanger Keita's life; the only people he can trust include a comely policewoman he meets during a race, a plucky ninth-grade documentarian, an ambitious wheelchair-bound lesbian journalist, and a kindly old woman with keen survival instincts. Even with their respective quirks, these and other characters seem like stock types straight out of a made-for-TV thriller, as does the often chaotic plot. Yet Hill skillfully injects details throughout of the vicissitudes and travails faced by any person, no matter what color or ethnicity, struggling to escape from strife-ridden, life-threatening conditions in their own countries. Even the simple act of using a library computer carries ominous ramifications for any "illegal." The settings may be imaginary, but the perils rendered here are as real as the front-page stories in this morning's newspaper about refugees desperate for safety in Western countries reluctant to welcome them. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
<p>Keita Ali is on the run.</p> <p>Like every boy on the mountainous island of Zantoroland, running is all Keita's ever wanted to do. In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect. Running means riches-until Keita is targeted for his father's outspoken political views and discovers he must run for his family's survival.</p> <p>He signs on with notorious marathon agent Anton Hamm, but when Keita fails to place among the top finishers in his first race, he escapes into Freedom State-a wealthy island nation that has elected a government bent on deporting the refugees living within its borders in the community of AfricTown. Keita can stay safe only if he keeps moving and eludes Hamm and the officials who would deport him to his own country, where he would face almost certain death.</p> <p>This is the new underground: a place where tens of thousands of people deemed to be "illegal" live below the radar of the police and government officials. As Keita surfaces from time to time to earn cash prizes by running local road races, he has to assess whether the people he meets are friends or enemies: John Falconer, a gifted student struggling to escape the limits of his AfricTown upbringing; Ivernia Beech, a spirited old woman at risk of being forced into an assisted living facility; Rocco Calder, a recreational marathoner and the immigration minister; Lula DiStefano, self-declared queen of AfricTown and madam of the community's infamous brothel; and Viola Hill, a reporter who is investigating the lengths to which her government will go to stop illegal immigration.</p> <p>Keita's very existence in Freedom State is illegal. As he trains in secret, eluding capture, the stakes keep getting higher. Soon, he is running not only for his life, but for his sister's life, too.</p> <p>Fast moving and compelling, The Illegal casts a satirical eye on people who have turned their backs on undocumented refugees struggling to survive in a nation that does not want them. Hill's depiction of life on the borderlands of society urges us to consider the plight of the unseen and the forgotten who live among us.</p>

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