The Boat People

The Boat People

Book - 2018
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When the rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and 500 fellow refugees from Sri Lanka's bloody civil war reaches the shores of British Columbia, the young father believes the struggles that he and his six-year-old son have long faced are finally over. But their journey has only just begun. The group is thrown into prison, with government officials and news headlines speculating that among "the boat people" are members of a terrorist militia infamous for suicide attacks.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, [2018]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780385542296
Characteristics: 338 pages ; 25 cm


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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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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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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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