Travelers: Book summary and reviews of Travelers by Helon Habila

Travelers

A Novel

by Helon Habila

Travelers by Helon Habila X
Travelers by Helon Habila
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Jun 18, 2019
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

A startlingly imaginative exploration of the African diaspora in Europe, by one of our most acclaimed international writers.

Award-winning author Helon Habila has been described as "a courageous tale teller with an uncompromising vision…a major talent" (Rawi Hage). His new novel Travelers is a life-changing encounter with those who have been uprooted by war or aspiration, fear or hope.

A Nigerian graduate student who has made his home in America knows what it means to strike out for new shores. When his wife proposes that he accompany her to Berlin, where she has been awarded a prestigious arts fellowship, he has his reservations: "I knew every departure is a death, every return a rebirth. Most changes happen unplanned, and they always leave a scar."

In Berlin, Habila's central character finds himself thrown into contact with a community of African immigrants and refugees whose lives previously seemed distant from his own, but to which he is increasingly drawn. The walls between his privileged, secure existence and the stories of these other Africans on the move soon crumble, and his sense of identity begins to dissolve as he finds that he can no longer separate himself from others' horrors, or from Africa.

A lean, expansive, heart-rending exploration of loss and of connection, Travelers inscribes unforgettable signposts―both unsettling and luminous―marking the universal journey in pursuit of love and home.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Once I started reading Travelers, I couldn't stop. It's an unsettling book that faces the urgent questions of our times and doesn't settle for easy answers. Yet the resilience of the characters, the mature decision to avoid melodrama, gives us a novel full of hope and wonder, tied to fully realized characters that as readers, we come to care about. I loved this book. It is indeed Habila at his best." - Leila Aboulela, author of The Kindness of Enemies and Elsewhere, Home

"Urgent, deeply empathetic, and resisting easy answers, Travelers follows the interconnected lives of African immigrants and refugees in Europe and examines the meanings of freedom, diaspora and home. Habila is a masterful storyteller, and this novel a riveting testament to the power of fiction." - Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers

"A moving and eye-opening novel that captures our global political moment and plumbs the many layers of life in exile, of people who are forever bereft in their 'traveling'. Helon Habila writes with the eye of a journalist, the tools of an artist, and the heart of a sober and compassionate witness." - Vu Tran, author of Dragonfish

"At once intimate and expansive, Travelers captivated me from the very first pages." - Aminatta Forna, author of Happiness and The Memory of Love

"I enjoyed Travelers immensely. Habila has written a pressure cooker of a story, an urgent novel that contends with the rootlessness of our world." - Elliot Ackerman, author of Waiting for Eden

"Unforgettable. Helon Habila writes of individual lives―pulled apart by our wars, our failed states and our deepest fears―with insight and searing compassion." - Madeleine Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing

The information about Travelers shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Liz D. (East Falmouth, MA)

Travelers
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."

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.

...10 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Helon Habila

Helon Habila is the author of the novels, Waiting for an Angel, Measuring Time, Oil on Water, and Travelers and a nonfiction book, The Chibok Girls. His writing has won numerous awards including the Caine Prize, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the Windham-Campbell Prize. He is professor of creative writing at George Mason University and lives in Virginia with his wife and three children.

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