I’ve just pulled freshly-made pop-overs out of the oven, so the scent of melted butter and cheese is in the air… mmm!!! I hope they’re good, as this is the first time I’ve made them. I’m waiting until they cool down a bit before I add one to the chai tea on the table in front of me.
I am nearly finished reading The Illegal by Lawrence Hill for my Friends’ Book Group meeting tomorrow night. I didn’t think I’d have a chance to finish it in time, and still get to my next Volunteer Book Club book, The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. in time for our meeting on Saturday. This is the problem with booking your book club meetings too close together, the pressure to finish in time and to have a chance to think about the book before the meeting. There was also the problem of such a short turnaround time between Volunteer Book Club meetings, just three weeks instead of the usual four weeks. Anyway, I’m nearly finished and will hopefully have time today to finish that one and start on the next one too. The Illegal tells the story of Keita Ali, a young man from Zantoroland whose whole life revolves around running. His sister, Charity, has the brains, but Keita has the legs and the stamina. At this politically turbulent time, in the near-future, when blacks are being deported from Freedom State to Zantoroland, where they are also being turned away or sometimes executed, Keita’s father, Yoyo, is imprisoned and then executed for writing articles damning the government over policies and practices. When Charity also disappears, Keita signs on with a sports agent to get entered into races in order to raise enough money to find his sister. He then escapes from his agent and goes running across Freedom State, always trying to keep a low profile because he is black with no citizenship papers for Freedom State and so considered an “illegal” - if caught, he would surely be deported back to Zantoroland and killed. Along the way, he meets a variety of interesting characters, including a black, gay paraplegic journalist named Viola Hill, a smart, sassy, gifted student from AfricTown named John Falconer, Ivernia Beech, an elderly but wealthy white woman who supports Keita and helps out whenever she can, and Cadance, a beautiful police officer and fellow marathoner. Together they assist Keita in his struggle to remain free long enough to win enough races to earn the money to free his sister from those who are holding her hostage. It’s a good book, not one I would have picked up on my own, but definitely fast-paced and interesting, but I’m not really sure what this book is supposed to be. Is it a dystopian novel? An exploration of the consequences when society turns a blind eye to the struggles of undocumented refugees? Although the description of the book sounded like it would take a serious look at what it means to be “illegal”, I found that the book was very “light”, almost humourous in parts, and that I couldn’t consider Keita’s quest in earnest. I guess I don’t read many satires, which is probably why I’m having a hard time pinpointing what this book is really supposed to be doing. I like straightforward books: if it’s supposed to be funny, then write in a humourous way; if an author wants to criticize society, then write a proper dystopian novel. This book is kind of a hybrid of both. My initial reaction was that it was too "obvious", that it lacked subtlety, that Hill was trying to be clever in this book, but did not manage to be quite clever enough. As I got into it, my initial thoughts didn't change but I found myself swept up in the story and the characters and realized I was enjoying it in spite of myself. I’ll see how I feel once I finish it, and will let you know what the other book club members thought of it after the meeting tomorrow.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the glorious sunshine and the cool fall day!
Bye for now…