Read advance reader review of Travelers by Helon Habila

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A Novel

by Helon Habila

Travelers by Helon Habila X
Travelers by Helon Habila
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Jun 2019, 288 pages

    Aug 2020, 304 pages


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  • Audrey M. (Overland Park, KS)
    I was blown away by this book. The author points out the trials and tribulations of newly arrived immigrants from Africa in Europe. The language. The sense of dislocation, the change in climate, the racism, the sense of being caught between the old and the new and in most cases not being able to find a support network in place to help them make this transition. It is heart breaking. I think single men have the most difficult time since they do not have the support of a family to go through these tribulations.
  • Rosemarie M, Charlotte NC (librarian)
    Travelers-- An Immigrant Tapestry
    The beauty of this book for me was in the way the characters are connected that is not at first visible. It is like a tapestry with many stories that share a common thread. Being a granddaughter of immigrants from western and southern Europe to the U.S., I find some themes in Travelers to be ones I find woven into my own life. I was not familiar with stories of African immigrants to Europe, and appreciate gaining a new perspective of the universal seeking for a better place--for home and love. I think that book clubs interested in the immigrant experience would find Travelers by the gifted Helon Habila to be a rich source for thoughtful discussions.
  • Shirley F. (The Villages, FL)
    Sad truth of the immigrant experience
    This story of African immigrants to Europe paints a very human picture of immigration. The author shows a deep understanding of people, their families and their desire for freedom, safety,opportunities for a better life. At the same time, he shows the reader the sacrifices that they must make in order to cross borders, the trust they display by paying smugglers to get out, the importance of religion.
    The African immigrants, like the Central American immigrants to the US, have a different color of skin and another language from the founders and majority of the citizens of their new countries.
    I was not captivated by this story at the beginning, but by the 2nd story, I began to see the light. I was shocked by the ending of the first chapter - but later realized that he was just too different (alien) to ever integrate into his new community. The character states, "Even in Berlin, I miss Berlin" which emphasizes how alienated he feels even in his "adopted" home.
    Each character has a reason for leaving their homeland, each has a story to tell and we are richer for reading them.
  • Elizabeth T. (Salem, MA)
    What a Surprise!
    It was an absolute honor to read this book and a double honor to review it. The author's style is so flawless and transparent that it disappears; you feel you're suddenly in the very scene that is unfolding. The characters are members of the African diaspora, from Nigeria, Zambia and other countries, moving through European and American cities in search of an education, a better life, friends or family they have lost, all the time mourning the countries they left and trying maintain their dignity, even their lives. They connect with each other in relationships that are provisional, sometimes evanescent, but nonetheless searing, intense, and heartbreaking.. The nameless (!) main character, whose voice tells much of the story, is breathtakingly gentle and tender, despite multiple dehumanizing experiences. The other characters connect with him delicately, weaving in and out of each other's lives, leaving then meeting again. I am an older white woman, an educated easterner -- and who is this Helon Habila, a Nigerian, so learned in the English language that he quotes Milton and Donne? How does someone so "different" from me create such profound and lovely people with whom I can relate so deeply, heart to heart?
  • Marganna K. (Edmonds, WA)
    A Gripping Story
    This book was difficult to put down and I throughly enjoyed this novel. It's divided into 6 Books or Chapters each telling an immigrant's story. I was well into Book 3 before I became aware of the thread connecting the 6 Books.
    It's a touching, sad story; I thought the author handled each character's tale with dignity & respect. I loved the way the stories revealed more with each succeeding book.
    The topic of immigration issues is certainly a timely subject for discussion. It is well written & thought-provoking. I'd recommend it to friends and to book clubs.
  • Liz D. (East Falmouth, MA)
    Travelers by Helon Habila was for me an eye opening experience.The story of the Nigerian graduate student's ever increasing interest in and involvement with refugees from Africa and the middle East. Habila brings the reader on a journey of interconnected stories experienced by the graduate student. He comes to understand the immigrant after becoming undocumented himself. The stories run seamlessly through the book making it a gradual opening of the reader eyes to the realities of going to another place in hopes of freedom, safety or opportunity. A timely book for our uneasy times. I would recommend Travelers to friends. Helon Habila is a new favorite author I will read his other books
  • Linda V. (Independence, KY)
    Poignant and timely
    I have read many stories of the Hispanic migration into the US, but none of the African diaspora. Initially one is just drawn to someone so like themselves (American) and little by little the view is widened and seasoned with the events and feelings of other characters. The events are interwoven into a tapestry reflecting current events. This becomes not a "story to tell" but rather a saga of pain, empathy and heartbreak. I keep reflecting on how I would handle the need to leave my country of origin with no idea of what to expect in my new home. Added to that would be the factor of inability to "blend" due to skin color and language. In all walks of life, I am constantly reminded: "There, but for the Grace of God, go I."

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