PositiveToronto StarIn his sharply etched fiction, mundane details accrete in startling and powerful ways ... a breathless adventure story that shows us Amir through the eyes of others ... The past-tense narrative, focused through Amir, calls to mind a play ... the darkness in What Strange Paradise is leavened by the hope Amir embodies. The dialogue on the boat is shot through with dark humour, and the present-tense section at times feels like a caper—including a hilarious scene in a hotel that for a moment ties the two narratives together. El Akkad is adept at interweaving literary contrivance with documentary-style realism—no mean feat—but there are times when the stitches show. Characters have a habit of bursting into stagy, implausibly well-honed monologues during dramatic confrontations, even in the present-tense chapters. And without giving anything away, there’s a twist in the book that, while well set-up, feels like an unnecessary wrinkle to add to an already knotty tale. Nevertheless, What Strange Paradise succeeds at what one senses might be El Akkad’s goal—to deepen our engagement with the world around us and with others’ stories.
PositiveThe National PostIn Life, he collects many of the wildly improbable tales of success, excess and obsession that have made him rock’s most revered rascal, but with one significant exception (and more on that later), the book stops short of offering the level of personal insight that could make it a stone-cold classic ... The festering conflicts that drive Life’s most absorbing passages arise between Richards and those closest to him: his bandmates, his girlfriends and, ultimately, himself ... Richards paints a disturbingly fascinating picture of the late ’60s and early ’70s as a time when battle lines were drawn clearly between culture and counterculture, when the antagonism and oppression of the powers-that-be spurred those who defined themselves as \'outlaws\' to greater, and ultimately self-destructive, heights of hedonism ... The one deeply considered relationship in Life — and the best reason to read it — is that between Richards and his muse.