Review of What Strange Paradise by Omar El-Akkad

Reviewed by Niven Khan, 2022.

What Strange Paradise by Omar El-Akkad conveys powerful messages about humanity and the workings of our world that other novels won’t convey in the same way. This novel almost resembles a fairy tale, but the ending is not what you expect. It opens with a close-up of a strange sight: the remains of a capsized migrant boat washing up onto the shores of the seemingly perfect tourist island of Kos Town. Amir Utu, a Syrian child, is the only survivor. As Amir tries to evade capture from local officers, a local teen, Vänna Hermes, makes it her mission to get Amir off the island to safety. But Amir is scarred from prior adventures: from fleeing Syria and settling with his broken family in Egypt, to his perilous and unprecedented journey across the Mediterranean sea. Alternating between ‘Before’ and ‘After’, readers follow Amir and Vänna on their risky mission while tracing the events leading up to the tragic opening scene. What Strange Paradise is as heart-touching as it is intense, and every setting and character makes it immersive and meaningful.

This novel can be found in the General Fiction section of Laurier’s Library and Learning Commons.