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3.32  ·  Rating details ·  313 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
A tremendously acclaimed and exquisitely realized novel of literary suspense, Harbor recounts the adventures of Aziz Arkoun who, at twenty-four, makes his way to America via the hold of an Algerian tanker and the icy waters of Boston harbor. Aziz soon finds himself a community of fellow Algerians, but their means of survival in this strange land begins to remind him of the ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2004)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jess Sturman-Coombs
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. Harbor is all of these things. I really liked the plot and the pace and I connected with the characters and got a real feel for the painful, dangerous and arduous journeys they were making.

There are many characters in this book and an insight into many different lives and reasons and I felt this was done very well by the author. I did reall
Oct 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, thrillers
The author raises the question: "Who is a terrorist?" What makes this book so good is that there is no easy answer. Fascinating read.
Nov 10, 2010 added it
Nerve-wracking! Wanted to like it, but didn't, and quit mid-way into the book. I was drawn in by early chapters but then just kept waiting, waiting for shoe to drop.
Apr 13, 2012 rated it liked it
A bit rough around the edges, but I also think it was the point of it. The author does offer some great insights regarding middle-eastern and north African cultures.
Ploni Almoni
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Starts strongly, becomes a drag around the middle. Still, very promising first novel.
Jeff Lacy
Apr 21, 2015 rated it liked it
I have this book three stars because while it raises our conscience that not all immigrants from one culture or region or religion are involve in violent or nefarious activities, it really didn't add anything new to this theme. This was a character driven novel. The initial, and the primary protagonist was Aziz, an Algerian who made it to Boston hidden in the cargo hole of a ship. He meets up with other Algerians, one being his contact in Boston, who gives him a place to live and help to find a ...more
Jan 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Bookmooch
Recommended to Weavre by: Vine
Aziz Arkoun ... illegal immigrant, former Algierian terrorist, coffee entrepreneur, friend, brother, and son ... Harbor offers rich, complex characters in its protagonist and his companions.

As the editorial cover blurb and other reviewers have mentioned, the primary question Adams raises is, "Who is a terrorist?" Is Aziz a terrorist because he killed in order to survive when he lived in Algieria, one of the most politically unstable places on Earth? After all, given opportunity, he might have gr
Jun 09, 2011 rated it liked it
I recently finished this book. This is a book by Lorraine Adams, entitled Harbor.

It starts by telling the story of Aziz, an Algerian stowaway, who tried for the third time to sneak into a ship heading for Boston. On the third time, he succeeds, and his adventures start there, from his health problems due to the harsh environment in the ship's bowels, to his being involved in a criminal ring in the city of Boston.

The narrative is very engaging, but if one looks at the bigger picture, the book is
Michelle Luksh
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
Adams definitely delivered a suspenseful novel involving the loved, and somewhat feared, 24-year-old Aziz who makes his way illegally to America by means of hiding in the bunker of an Algerian ship. Set in Boston, we are able to recount Aziz's treacherous and unforgiving journey as he undergoes trying to find a semblance of normalcy in his jarring new life in America.

The story is intense, woeful, parts nihilistic, but rounded out by the dichotomy of his compassion, grief, empathy, unsureness, an
Maggie Roessler
A wrenchingly strong beginning and lovely writing throughout, but the other reviewers were right to call it disjointed. It worked in some ways - Aziz's back-story comes like a revelation to explain his distanced paranoia. However some bits were brushed over too quickly, especially Ghazi's transformation around 2/3 through. Heather is never fleshed out and it's particularly annoying that Lorraine only chooses to let us into her head once she loses a lot of weight and starts sleeping with another ...more
Nov 17, 2011 rated it liked it
The story begins with a young Algerian escaping his country as a stowaway on a ship headed for America. He hooks up with his cousin and they proceed to move into a crowded apartment full of immigrants in East Boston. From there, the story jumps around a bit, going back and forth from Aziz's previous life pretending to be a man named Nazzar, who was sought out by an infiltrating cell of terrorists in their army camp abroad to the present day where they are running from the FBI who is seeking them ...more
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nancy
As current as the headlines, this debut novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lorraine Adams takes a penetrating look at the marginal lives of a group of Arab Muslims living in the United States and Canada. The story begins in Boston Harbor, where Algerian immigrant Aziz Arkoun swims ashore from a tanker. It's his third attempt to escape from his country and he's finally successful in reaching his destination. Ill and disoriented from his experiences—and knowing little English—Aziz connects ...more
Mar 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
SPOILERS AHEAD: This book received several book awards: NOTE TO SELF: STOP BUYING BOOKS BECAUSE OF AWARDS! I found the story disjointed & confusing to follow. It attempts to explain the difficulties encountered by illegal immigrants from Algeria who arrived as stowaways on oil freighters. Though the CIA shadows this group of loosely related men for nearly 5 years, they are unable to prove any terrorist aims. The men are involved in identify & other types of theft. It is a depressing tale ...more
Jun 24, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel raises several troubling questions:

How can we effectively combat terrorism, if we don’t understand the language and culture?

How much do we know about other cultures/ places like Algeria?

Can we even accurately identify the real terrorists versus people desperately looking for a better life and trying to stay hidden from scrutiny.

To what extent has involvement by the US and other countries like France created atmospheres of chaos, violence and ultimately resentment/ hatred against Weste
Emma Gregory
Harbor is a book about an Algerian named Aziz who is an illegal immigrant having stowed himself into America on a cargo ship. The story vacillates between the present time where Aziz is always looking for under the table work and his time in Algeria where he was forced into the civil war. The storyline was very disjointed and the way Adams weaves the other characters from Algeria and America into the story left me feeling confused and wanting more background. An average book but if you're lookin ...more
Aug 18, 2014 rated it liked it
I probably would never have read this book if it hadn't been for the TALK Book Discussion offered through the Kansas Humanites Council. This is probably a pretty accurate description of an illegal immigrant Arab in today's United States. Harbor is well written, however, it seemed to be great detail until the end where it is quickly wrapped up. I had to read the last several pages over again because it was very fast - especially considering the previous detail. Strong feeling are developed for th ...more
Apr 25, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2010
Gets off to a great start, then goes into a complete incomprehensible freefall. The author seems to realize about 50pp. in that she has no idea what to do with her story or her characters, and she doesn't seem to really care. If it's actual insight into America, immigrants, terrorism, and the darkest corners of the human psyche you want -- or if it's just an amazing book you want -- skip this and head straight to A Day and A Night and A Day, easily the best book I read last year.
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Despite prose that sometimes obscures rather than clarifies, this is a profoundly interesting book, with complex characters struggling to make sense of their lives in the US after leaving behind violence, love, and family in a rapidly deteriorating Algeria. The Anti-Terrorism task force characters, who come in near the end, are necessarily less-complex and therefore less believable, but nonetheless this finishes with a nice sense of the complexities of the intersections of multiple lives.
May 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Owens
Knowledgeable as she may be about the war on terrorism and even the subtleties of different movements and factions in the middle east and Arab world, her novel writing leaves a lot to be desired. I found the prose devoid of feeling, reading more like a journalistic article for unsophisticated readers. It never improved for me and when she had Mexican laborers working for beer I lost any remaining respect for Adams as a writer.
Sep 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: adults
This book was so beautiful,but also shockingly realistic. I learned alot about Algerian culture from this novel, and it demonstrates another side of the Arabic culture--a side that many people don't notice. The protagonist of the book is about as innocent as one could get, but has gone through so much in spite of being so young. A good cast of characters (although not all are by definition good people) shows that evil can not be a person, but a feeling, desire, lie, etc. Very good book!
Feb 21, 2010 marked it as decided-not-to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: k
I actually read over half this book, with some interest. It's the story of a young illegal immigrant (to Boston) from Algeria. But as the story progressed, it got increasingly confused (imho). One review said, "...all assumptions-his and ours-dissolve in an urgent, mesmerizing complexity." I agree about the "complexity" but not that it was "mesmerizing."
Aug 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2005
Fictional account of Middle Eastern illegals that move here for a better life and the prejudices of American's in a pre-9/11 world.

Did I Like It?
Alright. Interesting to see what goes through the minds of the Middle Eastern folk, and then what we as Americans think about them.
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book was OK but I was hoping for so much more. At times it was hard to follow and the book insert promised so much more. It was, what I thought, a disappointing read. I would have put it aside but read it on a recommendation so I kept on plowing through.
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I need to re-read this book to write a meaningful review. I found it to be a beautifully written exploration of the formation of self, told through the lens of the American immigrant experience. The story had mystery and depth.
Aug 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Wow. That first chapter just grabs you and shakes you around for a bit. The book follows Aziz Arkoun's struggle as an illegal immigrant in Boston and then contrasts it with his life back in Algeria. Great characters and a fascinating and tragic story.
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: other-fiction
The book is really a 3.5, but I rounded up. Overall, though, a really good book. Well-written, with good characters and an intriguing plot line. It was slow to get going, but after about 30%-40% in, it takes off and rewards you for sticking with it. This would make a great movie.
Daniel Simmons
A complex and compelling fictional account of Algerian immigrants in the American northeast. Adams's supremely empathetic prose reflects the lives and destinies of her characters: blurry, broken, and beautiful. Highly recommended.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
While this is not an easy read, it is important. Lorraine Adams creates memorable characters that offer a glimpse of the US viewed through the eyes of illegal immigrants from Algeria. More significantly, she has provided a notion of what motivates such young men. Superb.
The story follows an Algerian Muslim in the United States. Aziz' narration is credible and haunting - I do not know how Adams managed to imagine such a voice.
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