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by Lorraine Adams

Category: Fiction / General
292 pages; ISBN: 1-4000-4233-X

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Coletta Ollerer


A tale with three prongs: The escape from a life in a homeland that was so desperate,
so horrifying that it made the lonely and dreadful prospect of becoming a stowaway look attractive. The frightening and solitary life of an alien in the USA. The terrifying awareness of an illegal that he might be of interest to Federal agencies.

In several flashbacks we are taken into the military experiences of Aziz in Algeria including the brutal killing of a woman, and his unending fear of being tortured himself by his own comrades and superiors as he watched others in the throes of agony. He trusts no one. “Now there was nothing Antar (the local warlord) did not believe was his right. There were those among Antar’s men who took to depravity the way birds take to air. They had imaginations bloated with ways to inflict suffering, and they saw the permutated hell of their nighttimes as an underground heaven they had never hoped to enter.” (p157) This was the atmosphere that drove Aziz to escape his country.

He manages to get back to his family and intends to leave the country but his inability to get the proper papers from his government forces him to take the risk of becoming a stowaway. He is dirty, hungry, cold and without the native language when he drags himself onshore in Boston. A stroke of good fortune brings him to the attention of an Egyptian whose Arabic tongue allows him to provide help. Aziz manages to get in touch with a friend, Rafik, from Algeria who he knows is living in Boston. Rafik is glad to hear from him and he invites him to live at his flat. He knows he must be careful when dealing with Rafik who is known to be untrustworthy but this relationship is the only one he feels comfortable with in Boston. Illegals come and go at Rafik’s apartment.

Aziz’ lack of language skills and his unsettled background left him feeling isolated. He doesn’t understand a lot of what is going on “Mostly, he had no one to discuss most things with, so their weight and importance were all too often equal. Anything could matter. Anything could be anything.” (p65) He watches people closely in an attempt to better understand this place. He feels invisible but lucky because he is here and not in Algiers where terror is the order of the day.

The federal agents have numerous meetings to determine if they have a case against Aziz and others who pass through Rafik’s apartment in Boston. They decide to arrest them. Those arrested are people who fled the fear and intimidation of life in Algeria only to find themselves faced with anxiety and suspicion in the land they hoped would give them a chance of refuge. The story gives us a glimpse into the lives of these unfortunates and into the Federal agencies charged with their surveillance.


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