Harbor Summary

Harbor

The title Harbor is well chosen. It highlights the search of the book's main character, along with his friends and even some of his enemies, for a place of safety, somewhere, anywhere, away from their native Algeria, with its endless, often incomprehensible, violence.

When Aziz stows away on a tanker to America, he encounters dangerous situations and alien desires that he is ill equipped to handle. After a voyage that almost leads to his death, he lands in Boston in mid-winter, finding there a culture he seems powerless to understand. In Boston he is taken in by his distant cousin Rafik and Rafik's girlfriend Heather. The conniving Rafik concocts an insurance fraud to get Aziz some needed medical care. From there the story takes Aziz through a mix of treachery, social Darwinism, identity theft, and good intentions gone awry, a mix that is both farcical and terribly sad, and always haunted by a heritage of past horrors in Algeria.

Harbor is a moving and complicated tale that rings true. The reader quickly gets caught up in Aziz's desperation, his profound confusion about his new life in America, his deep attachment to his family and the country of his birth, and the scars left behind from his experiences with Algeria's religious and political struggles. This book is a tale of two cultures, American and Algerian, that collide without ever quite meeting. In a wider sense, it is a tale of how newcomers to American shores of every generation try with varying degrees of success to meld the values of the place they left with a dream of the place where they have just arrived.