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Harbor Paperback – September 13, 2005
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
My only comment to those who haven't read it is that the book requires VERY close reading to get the most out of it. 2/3 of the way through, when I was eager to charge through to the climax, I realized that I was confusing some of the characters and/or had not retained necessary information about them. Some, but not all,of this is attributable to the fact that most of the characters had unfamiliar names. At one point, I was as confused as the FBI agents as to who was who --- Rafik, Ghazi, Kamal, etc. I went back and carefully re-read the first 2/3 and it was well worth it. I do have to say that the chapter where Aziz first joins the rebels in the army camp is extraordinarily difficult to follow, and could have been edited better for comprehension. I read it about 5 times very rigorously, trying to follow what was going on, and it remains very confusing.
An extremely enjoyable novel that rewards the unusual effort that it demands from the reader.
Some of the strongest scenes are early on, where Aziz (an ex-soldier from Algeria) jumps off a ship and swims into Boston Harbor. Of course, Aziz doesn't know the language and isn't in good health, and Adams does a wonderful job conveying his sensory disassociation from the world around him. Aziz never really loses that disassociation though, it's as if he spends much of the novel with earplugs on. Even when he's reunited with friends and later his brother, and begins to suss out what he thinks may be a terrorist plot, Aziz seems remarkably casual about what's happening. We also get flashbacks to Aziz's life in Algeria, where he - mistaken for another man - falls in with a band of mercenaries before escaping....again, Aziz seems carried along by events. Anyone not familar with Algerian politics will have a hard time figuring out some of these scenes.
I thought the end of the book was the weakest, as point-of-view ping pongs between several characters, including the FBI, and characters from early in the book are suddenly reintroduced.
Still, I think HARBOR is a very promising debut, and I hope Adams continues to tackle subjects of such relevance.
Perhaps it's my ignorance of Algerian history and events, or maybe it's my preference for more details...but many of the scenes (particularly the flashbacks to Algeria, and the bar scenes in the U.S.) were hard to follow. I found myself scanning over paragraphs to get the general gist of the story, until I could get back to the more interesting parts. Reading over the many reviews of this book, very few reviewers mention this fault...although one called some of the text "unwieldy."
Incidents in the past are alluded to, for example, hashish dealings and one character's shady experiences in Paris and Morocco, but the story is not ever adequately told.
The intelligence services are depicted as clueless and apt to jump to conclusions without proving their theories. I hope to God that intelligent services are really not as inept as they are portrayed in this book!
The first part of the book was fascinating, and I was immediately drawn into Aziz's adventures. But the author eventually lost me as a committed reader. I did finish the book, but mostly because I was away for the weekend and didn't have other books to read. Otherwise I probably would have put it down.
I am disappointed, because I really wanted to like this book. I wanted more detail and a more thorough narrative of what was going on.Read more ›
And life is going at least OK when the F.B.I. starts to get involved with suspicions of terrorism both his and our assumptions about what is going on suddenly get much more complex. This is especially true as we realize that this is the time leading up to the 9/11 attacks. I find myself wondering just how Ms. Adams was able to develop such an interesting and complete character from a culture (Algerian) so different than ours. I think we have a new major player in the fiction scene.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a tricky one because you can't read a book like this and not expect it to be gritty and uncomfortable and perhaps even quite shocking or disturbing. Read morePublished on June 19, 2013 by Jess Sturman-Coombs
Harbor is a book that starts off very well but then loses track of where its going. The story is engaging, with interesting characters, but it grows chaotic as it proceeds to the... Read morePublished on April 5, 2013 by Matt Hausig
Lorraine Adams' "Harbor" tells the story of a group of Algerian immigrants of varying legal status who live and bond together on the East Coast of the United States. Read morePublished on July 16, 2009 by Ryan Winkleman
This novel explores life in Algeria through the eyes of a young refugee who stows away shipboard to seek the American dream. And his experiences in Boston. Read morePublished on May 21, 2009 by kn_s
HARBOR is a very unique story. At times it was difficult to follow so careful reading is necessary to fully appreciate the scope of the story. Read morePublished on April 16, 2009 by J. Stoner
Throughout this book, I kept waiting for more. More action, more answers, etc. By the end, I knew what was coming and found it a little disappointing. Read morePublished on April 1, 2009 by PCG
I've served in the Global War on Terror--most notably in Operation Nobel Eagle, but also in the general course of active duty. Read morePublished on March 17, 2009 by Brian M. Ranzoni
This book chronicles the life of Aziz, through his time living in cities along the Eastern Corridor of the United States, and during his time as a soldier in Algeria. Read morePublished on March 17, 2009 by Adam Rust
Harbor begins with an Algerian man who jumps ship in order to live in the United States. He receives help from the local mosque which brings him safety and medical care but also... Read morePublished on March 8, 2009 by Lynn Ellingwood