Book Review: The Illegal

The Illegal From The Catalyst, Summer 2016

The Illegal
By Lawrence Hill
HarperCollins, 2015

Reviewed by Trixie Ling

In The Illegal, Lawrence Hill brings to light the plight, struggles, and resilience of undocumented refugees. The author of The Book of Negroes uncovers the prejudice, racism, discrimination, and corruption in the immigration and political systems.

Through different stories and perspectives, Hill weaves together the voices of those who live on the margins of society. He shows the human power of compassion, forgiveness, and courage.

In this moving novel, the main character, Keita Ali, is a long distance runner. But he is running for his life and his family’s survival. Keita was forced to flee from his home to another country. Here, he has no family or friends. No one knows his name or would notice if he lived or died. Keita is “a stranger in a strange land whose only transgression was to exist in a place where his presence was illegal.”

The Illegal gives us a glimpse into the harsh reality and barriers faced by many refugees.

“The wall had a door, the door had a lock, and the lock needed a key. Some people had keys to this world, but Keita was not one of them,” Hill writes.

Throughout the story, Hill reminds us that we live in an interconnected world. He challenges us to open our hearts, minds, and hands to welcome and support our refugee neighbours.

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