Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal is the story of a fictional man trying to make his way in a fictional nation in which he is – predictably – an illegal immigrant. While the setting is made-up, the context and circumstances of the young man in question are certainly not.

I loved this book with my head, if not with my heart. On an intellectual level, I appreciate the complexity of the characters: the journalist (three of them!), the runner, the brothel-runner-cum-queen, the police officer, they all fit together perfectly like the pieces of a particularly satisfying puzzle. The story too is a work of art in terms of plot lines coming together into a beautiful whole, like watching someone solve a Rubik’s Cube. It did not, however, touch my heart as other stories have.

As a pick for Canada Reads 2016,  is an excellent addition. There are certainly those for whom the story – that stress of their very existence not being allowed – is familiar, but I think for the majority of Canadians, this is not the case. We have it good, relatively speaking. The takeaway message for me – that things can be illegal, but a whole person’s life should never be – is perhaps an obvious one, but not something I think most of us think of with any regularity, and maybe we should.

The Illegal

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