Book Review: The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

The Illegal

Reviewed by: Aimee
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Page count: 392 Pages
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
In stock: Yes

Lawrence Hill’s newest novel, The Illegal, is almost as good as his previous novel The Book of Negroes. Maybe it was because I was expecting a lot after reading The Book of Negroes, you know what they say about going in with too high of expectations, but I didn’t fall in love with the story the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, The Illegal is an incredibly relevant and insightful book for the current times and I would recommend it without hesitation. Lawrence Hill touches on many issues including racism, ageism, and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.

The story begins with the main character, Keita Ali, but quickly shifts the point-of-view to a variety of different characters. Keita, a runner from Zantoroland, becomes a refugee in the wealthy but corrupt country of Freedom State when he flees his own country. All he’s ever known is running, so while he runs for his life he must also run in Freedom State’s marathons where he is blackmailed into a seemingly impossible situation.

While reading this novel, you can’t help but be blatantly reminded of the refugee crisis our world is facing today. In an interview with CBC, Lawrence Hill was asked how his book might change the perceptions his readers have about refugees. He answered, “I hope the novel will inspire readers to care more deeply and empathize more profoundly with refugees. If we care and empathize more perhaps we will demand more of ourselves and we’ll also demand more of our elected officials.”

Reading The Illegal will hopefully inspire you to treat others graciously, stand up for those who can’t, and remind you not to take for granted the freedom you have. The Illegal is a timely work of fiction that would be a great read for anyone.

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