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Harborby Lorraine Adams
"Lorraine Adams's debut novel, Harbor, addresses the issues of a post-9/11 world, but she wisely sets it away from the main event....There is a self-conscious topicality to this tale, and the writing can at times feel overly reportorial. (Adams is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and it shows in the research she put into this novel.) But Adams can be poetic, too, and the portrait she draws of these men's relationships and psyches is complex, vibrant, and imaginative. The result is as compelling as it is necessary." Anna Godbersen, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
A powerful first novel that engages the tumultuous events of today: at once an intimate portrait of a group of young Arab Muslims living in the United States, and the story of one man?s journey into — and out of — violence.
We first meet Aziz Arkoun as a 24-year-old stowaway — frozen, hungry, his perceptions jammed by a language he can't understand or speak. After 52 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?
A debut novel as evocative as it is convincing — a groundbreaking work that announces a fearless new voice in American fiction.
"The uncertain lives of illegal Algerian immigrants are the subject of this compelling, topical debut novel. Adams, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, brings a reporter's eye for detail to the story, which begins with Aziz Arkoun's arrival in Boston Harbor. After 52 days as a stowaway in a tanker's hold — his third attempt to escape his country — Aziz swims to shore. Adams reveals and conceals just enough to keep readers almost as disoriented as Aziz, who, with no English and ruined health, survives almost by chance. But Aziz has fled Algeria, where he was an accidental double agent for Islamist militants, for another kind of brutish existence: intermittent minimum-wage employment, shady compatriots and FBI scrutiny. Straying from his modus operandi of inconspicuous survival, he and his friend Ghazi investigate the mysterious storage unit of their roommate Rafik. Is Rafik moving stolen designer clothes, hash or explosive chemicals? Their fingerprints implicate them in Rafik's racket; Aziz flees to Brooklyn, and Ghazi runs to Montreal, where he's seduced by a life of crime and perhaps by the 'Allah-talk' of a childhood acquaintance who aspires to be a node in an international terrorist network. Aziz is no 'prayer-boy,' but for the FBI there are too few degrees of separation between him and a terrorist cell. Adams's lucid, psychologically complicated page-turner captures the ambiguities of and raises important questions about the domestic war on terror. Agent, Tina Bennett at Janklow & Nesbit. (Sept. 1) " Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"One of America's oldest stories, the immigrant adventure, is magically new in this stunning debut....Adams runs the gamut from farce to horror. If her reach occasionally exceeds her grasp, that detracts only minimally from a fine success." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"[A] terrific book, weaving suspense and dread in rhythms that grow even more rapid as the novel concludes....Harbor leaves the reader reeling, wondering — as we do so often in life — how much is real and how much delusion." Amy Driscoll, Miami Herald
"Stunning....Arkoun?s story is told in simple language, but the conversations between him and those around him resonate with the echoes of their native tongue, full of colorful poetry." Debi Lewis, Booklist
"[A] great, gutsy first novel....The term 'terrorist cell' has a chilly, clinical ring that keeps it divorced from the ambiguous, messy everyday lives we all live. In this outstanding novel, Adams decisively reestablishes the connection. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly
"[A] provocative first novel....The ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter will draw in readers, who will find more depth and complexity here than they might have expected. Recommended." Library Journal
"Brilliantly, Adams pulls all the different threads together....A strong and disturbing book." Annie Proulx
"Harbor is a remarkable act of artistic empathy. It takes us far beyond journalism to dramatize not just the awful nature of our strife-filled world but also the hopeless complexity of its ethical and cultural roots." Neil Gordon, The New York Times Book Review
A brilliant first novel that tells the story of a North African man's journey into — and out of — violence. A heart-stopping novel, told in shimmering prose, that engages the tumultuous events of today.
About the Author
Lorraine Adams was educated at Princeton University and was a graduate fellow at Columbia University, where she received a master's degree in literature. She won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting and was a staff writer for the Washington Post for eleven years. She lives in Washington, D.C., and is at work on her second novel.
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