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Fiction Dystopian

The Illegal

by (author) Lawrence Hill

Initial publish date
Apr 2017
Dystopian, General, Literary
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2015
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2017
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2015
    List Price

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#1 national bestseller by the author of The Book of Negroes

Winner of the CBC’s Canada Reads

Longlisted for the 2017 International DUBLIN Literary Award

A CBC, Globe and Mail, and National Post Best Book of the Year

Winner of the CBC Canada Reads competition, Maclean’s calls The Illegal “a book for our times.” In the dark fictional world of Zantoroland, bestselling, award-winning author Lawrence Hill casts a satirical eye on some of the most pressing issues of our time: race, immigration, undocumented refugees, discrimination and how the unseen and forgotten must struggle to survive.

In one of the poorest nations in the world, running means respect and riches. But when Keita Ali is targeted for his father’s outspoken political views, he escapes into Freedom State—a wealthy island nation. This is the new underground: a place where tens of thousands of people deemed to be “illegal” live below the radar of the police and government officials. Keita must keep moving in order to avoid deportation. As he trains in secret, eluding capture, the stakes keep getting higher. Soon, he is running not only for his life, but for his sister’s life, too.

About the author

LAWRENCE HILL is a professor of creative writing at the University of Guelph. He is the author of ten books, including The Illegal; The Book Of Negroes; Any Known Blood; and Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada. He is the winner of various awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize, and is a two-time winner of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads. Hill delivered the North America-wide 2013 Massey Lectures, based on his non-fiction book Blood: The Stuff of Life. He co-wrote the adaptation for the six-part television miniseries The Book of Negroes, which attracted millions of viewers and won eleven Canadian Screen Awards. The recipient of nine honorary doctorates from Canadian universities, Hill served as chair of the jury of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. He is a volunteer with Book Clubs for Inmates and the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, and is an honorary patron of Crossroads International, for which he has volunteered for more than thirty-five years and with which he has travelled to Niger, Cameroon, Mali, and Swaziland. A 2018 Berton House resident in Dawson City, he is working on a new novel about the African-American soldiers who helped build the Alaska Highway in northern B.C. and Yukon in 1942–43. He is a Member of the Order of Canada, has been inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, and in 2019 was named a Canada Library and Archives Scholar. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario, and in Woody Point, Newfoundland.

Lawrence Hill's profile page


  • CBC Canada Reads
  • CBC Best Book of the Year
  • Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year
  • National Post Book of the Year

Editorial Reviews

A twisting, intricately woven yarn that spins itself out at an incredible pace. . . . In The Illegal, Hill takes on the snarled, pressing issues of our moment in time. . . . His larger moral questions linger, provocatively. — The Globe and Mail

The Illegal is a page turner. . . . The parallel world Hill has created allows for a perhaps fantastical overcoming of obstacles that is both exhilarating and heartening. — Toronto Star

The narrative structure of The Illegal is artful and suspenseful, the themes it addresses timely and prescient. Most of all, it is a thrilling story that paints a rich portrait of complex experiences too often reduced to a single media image. — Winnipeg Free Press

[The Illegal] explores many charged issues and questions. . . . [It] will, no doubt, remain in readers’ minds, and may help deepen our urgent dialogue about race and immigration. — Quill and Quire

Deeply satisfying . . . shot through with humor and humanity. . . . [A] timely and affecting story. — Booklist

[A] taut political thriller. . . . Hill’s intricate, propulsive plot includes corruption, murder, and mayhem, and readers will be rushing to its fulfilling resolution. — Publishers Weekly

Pushing the story forward is a character who has the kind of determination, bravery, and loyalty that most people could only strive for. . . . He is the kind of character you will root for all the way to the finish line. My rating: 5/5. — Newstalk 1010, Bookends review

Hill has masterfully portrayed the voices lost in our contemporary discussions of immigration. This is a compelling and thought- provoking examination of the challenges any nation faces when we fail to serve as our brother’s and sister’s keepers across borders, nationality, and race. A must-read. — Heidi W. Durrow, New York Times-bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

“Hill has outdone himself with his latest novel. . . . His characters are authentic, and each is indispensable. . . . Captivating.” — Library Journal (starred review)

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