• What Strange Paradise

  • A Novel
  • By: Omar El Akkad
  • Narrated by: Dion Graham
  • Length: 6 hrs and 37 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (134 ratings)

Prime logo Prime members: New to Audible?
Get 2 free audiobooks during trial.
Pick 1 audiobook a month from our unmatched collection.
Listen all you want to thousands of included audiobooks, Originals, and podcasts.
Access exclusive sales and deals.
Premium Plus auto-renews for $14.95/mo after 30 days. Cancel anytime.
What Strange Paradise  By  cover art

What Strange Paradise

By: Omar El Akkad
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Try for $0.00

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Buy for $15.75

Buy for $15.75

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's summary

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEARFrom the widely acclaimed, bestselling author of American War—a beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic, and profoundly moving novel that looks at the global refugee crisis through the eyes of a child.

"Told from the point of view of two children, on the ground and at sea, the story so astutely unpacks the us-versus-them dynamics of our divided world that it deserves to be an instant classic." —The New York Times Book Review

More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another overfilled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives back in their homelands. But miraculously, someone has survived the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who is soon rescued by Vänna. Vänna is a teenage girl, who, despite being native to the island, experiences her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though Vänna and Amir are complete strangers, though they don’t speak a common language, Vänna is determined to do whatever it takes to save the boy.

In alternating chapters, we learn about Amir’s life and how he came to be on the boat, and we follow him and the girl as they make their way toward safety. What Strange Paradise is the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world. But it is also a story of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair—and about the way each of those things can blind us to reality.

©2021 Omar El Akkad (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, NPR, BuzzFeed • Winner of the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize • Finalist for the 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize • Finalist for the 2022 Oregon Book Award

“Extraordinary . . . Told from the point of view of two children, on the ground and at sea, the story so astutely unpacks the us-versus-them dynamics of our divided world that it deserves to be an instant classic. I haven’t loved a book this much in a long time.” —Wendell Steavenson, The New York Times Book Review

“Riveting . . . Nothing I’ve read before has given me such a visceral sense of the grisly predicament confronted by millions of people expelled from their homes by conflict and climate change. Though What Strange Paradise celebrates a few radical acts of compassion, it does so only by placing those moments of moral courage against a vast ocean of cruelty.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Hope and kindness light the story in unexpected ways . . . El Akkad's precise prose allows him to inject heartfelt observations throughout the novel . . . Perhaps El Akkad's biggest accomplishment with What Strange Paradise is that it manages to push past political talking points and shocking statistics to rehumanize the discussion about migration on a global scale, and it does so with enough heart to be memorable.” —Gabino Iglesias, NPR