Read advance reader review of Travelers by Helon Habila, page 2 of 4

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A Novel

by Helon Habila

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

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2019, 288 pages

    Aug 2020, 304 pages


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  • Penny P. (Santa Barbara, CA)
    Interesting read
    This book provides in depth insight into the world of refugees. Though the people come from different countries, their journey to find a better life faces the same obstacles. This book is very relevant to today's world. I liked the format of the book and found it easy to pick up and read a section at a time. I will recommend it to my book club with the idea that each person choose one of the stories to focus on.
  • Carol F. (Lake Linden, MI)
    Book of Stories
    This book is exquisitely written. The author draws you into each person's life as a refugee and you can almost feel their grief, hunger or hope. I loved how you were left wondering how each character would be connected to the others as you ended each section. When you discovered that link it was so finely woven into the two interconnecting lives it never felt forced or unbelievable. And the ending story, although sad, was a compelling view into a refugee's journey.
  • Deborah W. (Boynton Beach, FL)
    "Travelers" helps us walk in the shoes of refugees
    Today so many immigrants are on the move around the world, for so many reasons, that it's hard to put ourselves in the shoes of these refugees, difficult to imagine their lives. "Travelers" humanizes this situation by pulling us inside the lives of half-a dozen Africans attempting to resettle in Europe. The primary character, a Nigerian studying for his Ph.D. in America, goes abroad when his wife wins a fellowship.

    She will paint the portraits of "Travelers," but he will interact with them, getting deeply involved with some. In the process he will need to decide whether to go in the opposite direction and follow his roots back to Africa, whether to stay in Europe, or whether to return to America. Which path is right for him? For his fellow travelers?

    The topic is important and timely, but what makes this book worth reading is that the stories are on a human scale. One-to-one, we can better understand the desperation of immigrant families, learn how refugees are treated, and see the consequences of governmental policies — not through polemics or statistics but through stories of human beings like ourselves, people who want to have better lives for their children and opportunities for themselves. The book is well-written, the characters are memorable, and I was glad to have spent time in their company.

    Book clubs will find much to discuss here, as will readers of such books as "Exit West" and "The Map of Salt and Stars."
  • Claire M. (Sarasota, FL)
    Les Miserables 21st Century
    TRAVELERS is a book of wonder. Through 6 "books" Habilon ties a Nigerian- almost American to tales of people who have survived fleeing their African or Asian homelands to Europe. These are the stories of the migrants we read about every day, fleeing war and the certainty of death for a chance to live. Each person's story is different but ever so much the same: trusting smugglers to get them out or in, horrific death, losing families, near starvation and for some the stress and chaos leaves them beaten, half insane. They exist in refugee camps with conditions unknown to anyone who hasn't experienced one. The question that should be in every reader's mind is – where is human compassion, where is the will to find ways to make life in the countries of Africa, Afghanistan, etc., safer and viable? The culture wars present in most European countries, America and Australia leave no room for empathy but the human tide of travelers will not end.
    Helon Habilon is a writer of quiet power. His characters take you into their lives with the simple telling of their quest for a human connection, a place to make a living for them and their families. This would be a good book club choice if it considered the lives that have been lost or the trauma people undergo just trying to live.

    Someone will pick this up and either do a reading or a powerful play. It needs to be widely disseminated.
  • Anne C. (Herndon, VA)
    Wonderful Writing
    Every day in the media, we see images of huge numbers of immigrants traveling to what they hope will be a better life or fleeing from famine or danger at home. There are so many of them that any remedy seems almost impossible. In this book, Helon Habila has given a voice to these people.

    Although the book is fiction, it is firmly grounded in contemporary events. The unnamed main character is a Nigerian man working on his PhD and married to an American wife, who is living in Germany with a grant to paint portraits of refugees. Her portraits cannot tell us much about the subjects, but as the narrator meets other immigrants and refugees over the course of the book, we do learn their stories. The novel is organized in six "books," with a number of main characters, both male and female, ultimately united by their relationship with the narrator. Some of the immigrants are educated and searching for better economic opportunities, and some are fleeing war and hunger, enduring terrible conditions and lost families.

    Habila's writing is almost poetic in some of his descriptions, and he has a firm mastery of characterization and plot. He draws the reader into the narrative and makes the reader care deeply about the immigrants and their fates.
  • Jane B. (Chicago, IL)
    A heartbreaking story of immigrants lives today
    If this book were a film, it would be a documentary. People displaced by political upheaval, trying to save themselves and find a better life while attempting to adjust to cultural differences, these are the people represented in these stories. Living on the knife's edge, one small error and all is lost. Two things that I found interesting: that shelters were self organized by the country of origin and that time can stretch to great lengths and be simply noted. Habila is a marvelous writer telling a timely story.
  • Suzanne G. (Tucson, AZ)
    First-rate Writing
    TRAVELERS is the perfect title for this book. It is a poignant story connecting the lives of refugees leaving African countries for better living conditions in Europe. The author's empathy is so evident. This is a beautifully written book. It did take me some time to understand how each character connected. Sometimes I got a person's name mixed up and had to go back to see who was who.

    I believe this will become a sought-after novel. Also, the story is relevant to the current migration situation our own country is experiencing.

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