The Boat People

The Boat People

A Novel

eBook - 2018
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By the winner of The Journey Prize, and inspired by a real incident, The Boat People is a gripping and morally complex novel about a group of refugees who survive a perilous ocean voyage to reach Canada - only to face the threat of deportation and accusations of terrorism in their new land.

When the rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and five hundred fellow refugees reaches the shores of British Columbia, the young father is overcome with relief: he and his six-year-old son can finally put Sri Lanka's bloody civil war behind them and begin new lives. Instead, the group is thrown into prison, with government officials and news headlines speculating that hidden among the "boat people" are members of a terrorist militia. As suspicion swirls and interrogation mounts, Mahindan fears the desperate actions he took to survive and escape Sri Lanka now jeopardize his and his son's chances for asylum.
Told through the alternating perspectives of Mahindan; his lawyer Priya, who reluctantly represents the migrants; and Grace, a third-generation Japanese-Canadian adjudicator who must decide Mahindan's fate, The Boat People is a high-stakes novel that offers a deeply compassionate lens through which to view the current refugee crisis. Inspired by real events, with vivid scenes that move between the eerie beauty of northern Sri Lanka and combative refugee hearings in Vancouver, where life and death decisions are made, Sharon Bala's stunning debut is an unforgettable and necessary story for our times.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, [2018]
ISBN: 9780771024306
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc. - Distributor

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Opinion

From Library Staff

Sharon Bala's 2018 Canada Reads contender offers another lens through which to examine the current international refugee crisis as The Boat People tells the story of 500 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers who landed in British Columbia in 2009.


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Although the themes in the stories are complex and tragic, the writing lacks proficiency and finesse. I felt I was reading a script for a graphic novel. The book may have been intended for grade 8 reading level. While it is useful to expose us to this difficult subject, based on the inexpert writing I would not recommend this book to someone who expects well crafted writing to go along with an interesting story line.

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EmilyEm
Oct 30, 2019

A boatload of asylum seekers—ethnic minority Tamil people from a Sri Lankan civil war—arrive in Vancouver, British Columbia, about the time of the Olympic Winter Games held there. Viewed as possible terrorists by some in government and the media, the refugees face bewildering labyrinths of steps to their goal of starting over in a new land.

Debut novelist Bala tells this story through three storylines—refugee Mahindan and his young son, one government adjudicator Grace, and his apprentice attorney Priha. Both Grace and Priha have their own immigrant backstories. Nothing happens quickly in this process or in the story’s telling! Admirable work. Could see how it became a Canada Reads contender; great for discussion. Ambitious. Very timely.

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TEENREVIEWBOARD
Mar 28, 2019

The anecdotal book The Boat People by Sharon Bala revolves around the lives of many who took the major risks of their lives to risk all they have to get rid of brutal discrimination and oppression in Sri-Lanka. The book was quite interesting and showed the hardships and triumphs of immigrants. I personally enjoyed this book very much owing to the fact that I was educated about Canadian history! I would recommend this book to readers who are interested in non-fiction novels like such. I was intrigued by the fact that it revealed that immigration had not always been a perfect part of Canada’s history knowing that we are a diverse and multicultural country. Furthermore, this book was a good experience and overall an informative text which was enjoyable. It was not boring either due to the fact that they would write the book from a character's perspective which makes it easier to relate and visualize. Out a 5 star rating, I will give this book a 4. Since it was educational and also included ways to make sure the reader isn’t disheartened or bored of the book. In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to my friends and family would like there to be a part two, to show how their lives have progressed living in Canada. @Bibliogoblin of the Hamilton Public Library Teen Review Board

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scribby
Jan 28, 2019

This is a politically timely book. The countries are different, and the refugees are fleeing a different situation, but the plight is all too familiar. The story is told from three sides: the refugees themselves (whose history turn out to be not necessarily all benevolent), “liberals” (if I may use the terms from American politics) who want to welcome them to their new country, and “conservatives” who have a hardline leader and want to keep them out. One of the author’s masterstrokes is to give one of the latter group some unresolved family issues concerning a similar story in the past. The horrors of war are described sparingly; this is mostly a character study – and a question looms over the entire book: what would you do if you were in one of the groups?

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JohnDunham
Jan 14, 2019

Really great reading. It's a view of the tricky process of immigration and looks into various eras of Canada's involvement.

j
JohnFDavidson
Sep 17, 2018

I read a review of this book in the New York Times supplement with the Spec by an author I enjoy, Ru Freeman, but she was fairly lukewarm on this book. With Canada Reads it was the first book eliminated in a dramatic sequence (down to the last voter with four tied). I just have "The Marrow Thieves" to go, but I thought this book was the best. Took multiple views and also took us through a few layers where we realized nobody is perfectly innocent, but we do what we feel most comfortable with in order to survive. The book had an endorsement on the front cover from the author of An American War (also on the same Canada Reads contest) and had references to similar experiences related in the Canada Reads winner, Well worth the effort.

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spiderfelt_0
May 29, 2018

The author does a masterful job of presenting this story from various opposing points of view. Based on an event that occurred a decade ago, this story continues to have relevance. In fact, it seems to be a story doomed to be repeated over and over again. There are no easy answers, simple solutions or clear sides on which to form a solid opinion. This is the point. But reading the story from the conflicting positions helps us to understand, and building empathy for viewpoints other than or own is a practice we need to repeat ad infinitum.

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shayshortt
Mar 26, 2018

I got off to a bit of a rough start with The Boat People, which opens in the midst of an action sequence that lacks any context, and then turns out to be a dream. Fortunately, this passage was relatively short, and the meat of the book proved to be more rewarding than this doubly trite opening. Once I was able to settle into the Sharon Bala’s writing style—which rejects any use of quotation marks or other indications of dialogue, requiring close attention to who is saying what, and whether something is an internal or external monologue—I was drawn into the three main characters, whose personalities and histories ultimately drive the story.

Full review: https://shayshortt.com/2018/03/26/the-boat-people/

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dontbugmeimreading
Mar 17, 2018

This one caught my eye because it was based in Vancouver but written by a Newfoundlander (this seemed kind-of funny to me).
With the major influx of refugees being so much in the news these days, this story puts a person into the headlines. The story focuses on a man fleeing Sri Lanka with his 6-year-old son and arriving in Canada on a refugee boat in 2009. Not only does it go into why the man was so desperate to leave Sri Lanka (I didn't know about their civil war) but also his difficulties with the refugee system in Canada. Back stories include the lives of the lawyer representing him and the adjudicator trying to figure out if he is a terrorist and deciding whether he can stay in Canada or be returned to Sri Lanka (and probable death).
This book was eye-opening without being preachy and I am glad I read it.
I look forward to reading another book by this author.

d
dirtbag
Mar 05, 2018

Well written and engaging. So far this is the best book that I have finished of the proposed Canada Reads novels. Still waiting on The Marrow Thieves.

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shayshortt
Mar 26, 2018

Widower Mahindan leaves civil war-torn Sri Lanka dreaming of a new life in Canada for his young son, Sellian, who has already lost his mother and so much else to the conflict between the ruling Sinhalese and the separatist Tamil Tigers. Desperate to escape, Mahindan takes passage for them on an ancient, converted cargo boat, which will smuggle hundreds of refugees across the ocean to the west coast of Canada. But when they land, what awaits them is not a new life, but imprisonment, while Canadian authorities struggle to process the massive influx of refugee claimants, and the public debates whether the boat people should be allowed in at all. His fate, and the fate of his son, will lie in the hands of the Canadian lawyers and adjudicators, each of whom has a story of their own.

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shayshortt
Mar 26, 2018

Certain people felt too rooted, too comfortable. They took it for granted that they deserved to be here more than us. Entitlement closed their hearts

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