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Harbor by Lorraine Adams
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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
One of the few books that I could not finish. I did not care about the characters. ( )
  sberson | Oct 12, 2013 |
A complex story of refugees and illegals from Algeria. It tells gracesfully slowly and inexorably how humans interpret, misinterpret ambiguities, blurred existences. ( )
  BCbookjunky | Mar 31, 2013 |
A complex story of refugees and illegals from Algeria. It tells gracesfully slowly and inexorably how humans interpret, misinterpret ambiguities, blurred existences. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Sep 24, 2011 |
Densely written, pretty good book about the immigrant experience in USA. Tells the story of a group of Algerian refugees mistaken for terrorists. ( )
  neilchristie | Aug 21, 2009 |
Lorraine Adams won a Pulitzer prize as an investigative journalist for the Washington Post some seven years before she stumbled upon the newspaper story that would eventually inspire her 2004 debut novel. That novel, "Harbor," would also prove to be a prize winner by being named “Book of the Year” by both the Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly and being awarded with the Los Angeles Times 2004 book prize for first fiction.

Although most of its action takes place in Boston, Harbor is really a story about the breakdown of society in modern Algeria, a country that for too many years suffered the slaughter of its population at the hands of several Muslim extremists groups, the army charged with protecting the population, and the corrupt government that, at times, seemed to welcome the carnage. It is said that over 100,000 people died in those few years, most of them butchered, and many thousands of them decapitated for the purpose of terrorizing those who might fight back.

Aziz Arkoun, and hundreds more like him who could not find work that would allow them to marry and move from the home of their parents, would make their way illegally to the United States, willing to risk their lives and leave everything they knew behind in hope of a better life. After 52 days as a stowaway on a tanker, Aziz finds himself in a near frozen Boston harbor, jumps overboard, and barely survives his swim to shore. He speaks not a word of English, has no money, and no plan other than to contact another Algerian, the one person that might help him.

In what seems to him a miracle, Aziz overhears two people on the street speaking Arabic and, after throwing himself at their mercy, he is taken into the home of one of the men until he is well enough to contact his “cousin” who lives just a few miles away. Aziz finds himself living in a cramped apartment with other Algerian illegals, a little support group to which he would remain attached for several years while he and the others struggled to learn English and find work, no matter what it might pay.

Unfortunately for Aziz and his friends, his “cousin” is not one to work for anything as low as minimum wage and he makes his own living by smuggling everything from drugs, to designer clothes, to what the FBI believes might be explosive chemicals. The FBI, in its effort to prove that the Algerians are a threat to the country (a full year prior to 9-11), links bits and pieces of evidence together into what becomes a wider and wider net that threatens to haul in the innocent along with anyone that might be guilty.

Adams does not avoid the horrific truth of what was happening in Algeria in the early nineties and, in fact, describes one murder in such brutal detail that readers will be shocked, if not offended, by what they read. However, that incident forms the very core of "Harbor", and without it, the book would not be nearly so strong or its message so true. As one who was evacuated from Algiers just as everything there was falling apart, I strongly commend Lorraine Adams for telling Algeria’s story in such frank and believable terms despite the fact that I had dreams of that particular killing for two nights running. Let no one doubt that, in "Harbor,"Adams has captured the utter brutality of what Algeria suffered at the hands of its own.

Rated at: 4.5 ( )
  SamSattler | Jan 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 140004233X, Hardcover)

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lorraine Adams has crafted a debut novel worthy of any seasoned novelist's pen. Harbor is as current as the headlines, chronicling the desperate, confused, marginal lives of a group of Arab Muslims in Boston, Montreal, and Brooklyn. Aziz Arkoun arrives in Boston Harbor after 52 days as a stowaway in the hold of a tanker. He swims to shore through icy waters, arriving ill and disoriented. His experience is comparable to that of the Guatemalan immigrants in "El Norte": what he finds when he arrives is only slightly better than what he left, but at least he is not in immediate danger of being killed. Adams does a masterful job of rendering Aziz's confusion as he confronts a strange language in an almost unknowable world, tries to suss out what illegal goings-on his cousin is up to, sleeps in a chair a few hours a night, and works in a low-paying job for a brutish boss.

Threaded through the ongoing narrative is the backstory of what Aziz escaped: forced military service in the Algerian army, a chance role as a double agent which almost gets him killed and causes him to desert, and the ordinary, everyday horror of a bloody ground war. After deserting the army, he goes home, only to have his double agency discovered, which puts him on the run again, this time to Boston Harbor. At 24, he is a veteran in every sense of the word. Somehow, he retains an insouciance and innocence through it all. Not so his roommates.

Adams raises the question: "Who is a terrorist?" What makes this book irresistible is that there is no easy answer. Is it the one reading ancient Persian poems or the Qu'uran, or the one stealing Batman toys to resell at a profit? What we are stuck with is what an FBI agent says: "...we don't have to know them. We can't, ever. We can just piece together something here with something there and draw logical conclusions. It's flawed, of course it's flawed. But it's better than the alternative." --ValerieRyan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:34 -0400)

"We first meet Aziz Arkoun as a twenty-four-year-old stowaway - frozen, hungry, his perceptions jammed by a language he can't understand or speak. After fifty-two days in the hold of a tanker from Algeria, he jumps into the icy waters of Boston harbor and swims to shore. Seemingly rescued from isolation by Algerians he knew as a child, he instead finds himself in a world of disillusionment, duplicity, and stolen identities, living a raw comedy of daily survival not unlike what he fled back home." "As the story of Aziz and his friends unfolds - moving from the hardscrabble neighborhoods of East Boston and Brooklyn to a North African army camp - Harbor makes vivid the ambiguities of these men's past and present lives: burying a murdered girl in the Sahara, reading medieval Persian poetry on a bus, passing for Mexican, shoplifting Versace for clubbing, succumbing to sex in a public library, impersonating a double agent. But when Aziz begins to suspect that he and his friends are under surveillance, all assumptions - his and ours - dissolve in an urgent, mesmerizing complexity. And as Harbor races to its explosive conclusion, it compels us to question the questions it raises: Who are the terrorists? Can we recognize them? How do they live?"--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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