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The Boat People

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  3,505 ratings  ·  618 reviews
When a rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and five hundred fellow refugees from Sri Lanka's bloody civil war reaches Vancouver's shores, the young father thinks he and his six-year-old son can finally start a new life. Instead, the group is thrown into a detention processing center, with government officials and news headlines speculating that among the "boat people" are m ...more
352 pages
Published January 2018 by Doubleday
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Myrna The edition I read has several discussion questions at the end. You could also check the publisher's website - Penguin Books - as they often have book…moreThe edition I read has several discussion questions at the end. You could also check the publisher's website - Penguin Books - as they often have book club suggestions.(less)

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4.01  · 
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 ·  3,505 ratings  ·  618 reviews


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Angela M
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 rounded up.

This book tackles a difficult and timely topic based on a true event that occurred in Canada in 2010 with the arrival of a ship from Sri Lanka carrying nearly 500 refugees seeking asylum. This is an important story reflecting on an issue that is front and center right now in countries across the world. Through three alternating narratives, Sharon Bala gives us a view of the complexity of it all - the process, the red tape of the system, the politics, the emotional and gut wrenchi
...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-read
3.5 The refugee crisis has been prominent in many of our countries, the concern for safety of the current citizens, versus those who are looking for a safe place to land and start over. In this book a ship of Sri Lankan refugees , over five hundred, some women and children, but mainly men, seek sanctuary in Canada. How to rate a book with such a strong political message, where one learns so much about the process these refugees go through when entering a foreign country, and one that does such a ...more
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hard-soft-copy
3.75 stars!

Mahindan is a young father of a six-year-old son who boards a ship with fellow refugees fleeing Sri Lanka’s civil war. They land in Vancouver thinking they are headed to a better life, but they are quickly put in a detention center. There is speculation that there are violent people among the masses responsible for suicide attacks.

The interrogation of the refugees intensifies, and Mahindan worries he and his son may never have freedom due to the choices he made to get them on the shi
...more
Esil
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. There are some risks involved in writing fiction based on real events. An author may take liberties for the sake of the story, but then the liberties can be distracting to the reader... The Boat People was mostly good with some distractions.

The Boat People is based on the real story of a boat arriving on the shores of British Columbia in 2010 with around 500 Sri Lankans seeking refugee status: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Su.... Bala has built a novel around this event by focusi
...more
Rebecca McNutt
I received a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

This is a fairly large book, but a surprisingly fast read and a deep tale of the horrors and woes that many refugees face, horrors so frequent that it's commonplace. The Boat People is ultimately about the futility that the witch hunt of the War on Terror ultimately equates to when it puts innocent people at risk. Set in Canada, it follows a man and his son, accused and arrested for the unthinkable. Mahindan is a good and honest man who want
...more
Kai
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, 2018
“Hope was a dangerous thing to lose.”

Sharon Bala's debut novel is a touching and emotional journey from war-torn Sri Lanka all the way to the coast of Canada.

When a refugee boat with over 500 Tamil people arrives after a long and hard trip, their passengers are divided into male and female and taken to prisons for shelter. Here they have to wait and hope not to be sent back, which would mean their deaths. However, the Canadian government won't make it easy for them to set foot on open Canadian
...more
Nancy
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
We may have all come on different ships but we're in the same boat now. Martin Luther King Jr.
Who leaves their home unless under duress? The place of one's nativity, where one's ancestors are buried, the house that contains so many memories are not given up lightly. To be a refugee, an immigrant, means to be cast off freewheeling into the unknown mists of the future, without mooring or a known destination.

The Boat People is Sharon Bala's debut novel.

Mahindan fled Sri Lanka with his son Sellian w
...more
The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane)
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
In August 2010, the merchant vessel Sun Sea arrived at Esquimalt naval base in British Columbia, carrying hundreds of Sri Lankan asylum seekers. Sri Lanka had been in a state of civil war for twenty-five years.

Before Sri Lanka gained independence, the British brought in millions of Tamil to work their vast cash crop plantations of coffee, and later of rubber and tea. Colonial officials brought in approximately a million Tamil speakers from India to work as plantation labor. The Sinhalese majorit
...more
Taryn Pierson
Considering the current crisis at the U.S./Mexico border, with children being separated from parents and asylum seekers being treated like criminals, this seems like a good time to learn what it’s like to be a refugee. Although Bala’s book is set Canada, not the U.S., and her characters are from Sri Lanka, not Mexico and Central America, the themes of the novel felt highly relevant to me. It doesn’t matter what language you speak or what culture you come from, the desperation that comes from lea ...more
Krista
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, can-con
Mahindan turned his back to the railing and slid down to sit on the deck. Exhaustion whenever he thought of the future; terror when he remembered the past. He yawned and pressed a cheek to raised knees, then tucked his arms in for warmth. At least here on the boat they were safe from attack. Ruksala, Prem, Chithra's mother and father. The roll call of the dead lulled him to sleep.

The Boat People means well – invoking the real life story of the MV Sun Sea (a cargo ship that arrived in Vancouver
...more
Kate Olson
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are certain books that enter into our lives for a purpose, and this is one of those books for me. This heartbreaking look at the refugee crisis in general, and specifically that of Sri Lankan refugees being detained in Canada, was an educationally rich experience for me, and one that pushed a critical issue back into the front of my mind. Through Bala's characters, readers are presented with complex philosophical and political issues in a thought-provoking format that makes even the most k ...more
Charlsa
I was surprised by this book. It is a work of fiction concerning the Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka that immigrated by ship to Canada. It is apparent the author researched the subject extensively and created a great story. I knew nothing about the subject before reading this book. The thing I most enjoyed about this book is that the author didn't choose a "side". She presented everyone's point of view and did a great job of illustrating that immigration issues aren't as black and white as one mig ...more
Cheryl
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OUTSTANDING!!! Beautifully told, refreshing writing. This transpires along Canada's border, but the timely relevance to current American headlines is UNCANNY. And to finish this on our Independence Day is quite moving. What a gift this author has given us. And it's her debut! BRAVA.
♥ Sandi ❣
3 stars-Thank you to Keep Turing Pages and Doubleday for the chance to read and review this book.

This book would have been a 4 star book for me had the author added the needed quotation marks to her story. However, since I find the lack of quotation marks to be interrupting and annoying while reading a novel, I will automatically deduct one star from the review.

The premise of this story is very much in the current headlines today. Immigration is a well written and thoroughly discussed topic. B
...more
Rebecca
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed-bookbag
Based on a real-life refugee crisis that hit Canada in 2009, Bala’s debut novel illuminates all sides of the issue by focusing on a father and son who travel from Sri Lanka to Vancouver Island by boat, their lawyers, and the Japanese-Canadian adjudicator who is to decide on their case. The message about the necessity of compassion might not be very subtle, but it’s an important one given the plight of refugees around the world today. There is always a danger of history repeating itself, but gett ...more
Allison ༻hikes the bookwoods༺
The Canada Reads theme this year is one book to open your eyes and that’s exactly how I feel about The Boat People. The book illustrates how most Canadians (excepting only indigenous people) are immigrants. It doesn’t matter that my ancestors came here three hundred years ago, they were once immigrants too. The refugee process is so arbitrary in this country and The Boat People certainly opened my eyes to that.
Patrice Hoffman
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Boat People by Sharon Bala might best be reviewed after tonight's State of the Union address... The Boat People tells the story of immigration from three different viewpoints... VERY different viewpoints. There's no denying the political message behind this read, but instead of focusing there, I'll begin with a good ol' simple review.

For me, the most prolific character was Mahindan. He arrives to Canada's shores with his 6 year old son with the hopes of beginning a new life. He and the othe
...more
Brooke — brooklynnnnereads
This was such an in-depth and emotional behind the scenes look at immigration and those who are refugees.

An especially important novel in this current political climate; however, I think this novel will important regardless of the year.

This story follows multiple points of view from the individual refugee to the person assisting in making the decision on whether they stay in the country or not.

I definitely recommend this novel as it’s eye opening, thought provoking, and important. I know it’s
...more
Kathleen
"We may have all come on different ships,
but we're in the same boat now. "
-Martin Luther King Jr.

THE BOAT PEOPLE by Sharon Bala was inspired by the arrival of the Ocean Lady and the MV Sun Sea on the coast of British Columbia in October 2009 and August 2010, bearing together just over 550 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. Although THE BOAT PEOPLE is a work of fiction, many of the circumstances depicted in both Sri Lanka and Canada are based in fact.

I love it when I learn from the books I read.
...more
Danielle Tremblay
I received this novel by GoodReads giveaways in exchange for an honest review.

I will not summarize this story, but you can read an excellent one written by Nancy here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Warsan Shire, the British-Somali poet wrote:
you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.

Sharon Bala won the Journey Prize for her novel whose central portion takes place on the Pacific Ocean between Sri Lanka and Vancouver, British Colum
...more
Celia
In October 2009 and August 2010, the Ocean Lady and the MV Sun Sea, two ships bearing together just over 550 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, arrived in British Columbia. Those vessels and their passengers were the inspiration for this novel.

Bala insists that all characters in this book are fictional. Very little is known about the actual Tamil refugees. Bala made these characters up based on the little information she COULD find out.

The book addresses some real and important issues: refugees and
...more
Brandon
When a cargo ship carrying several hundred Sri Lankan refugees arrives off the coast of Vancouver, those aboard hope for a new beginning in Canada. The problem? You just can’t walk into the country (or sail in for that matter). There’s a long, drawn out process in claiming refugee status and it doesn’t always work out for those in need. In The Boat People, author Sharon Bala takes inspiration from a real life incident in 2010 to shine a light on that very process spotlighting the refugees, the i ...more
Brittany
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seriously? Thats how it ends??? I need like 50 more pages.

But all jokes aside this book is beautifully written with a heart wrenching story that is relevant to today. The fact that a lot of this book is set in Vancouver, BC brings a familiar feeling to the story that I long for in books these days. I am no longer interested in books set in the US, I would rather read about my own country, and The Boat People really hits home that Canada has its own problems with systematic racism. This story may
...more
Heather(Gibby)
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian-author
I loved so many things about this book. Mostly I liked how it showed how complicated immigration issues can be and that there are no black and white answers to some difficult questions. I also felt it exposed how those who gain a position by political patronage are not always qualified to make the significant decisions they are tasked with.

I have read 4 of the 5 contenders for Canada Reads (still need to read Forgiveness), but so far this is the one I will be rooting for
Allison
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, yes, and this book does a fine job of illustrating the complexities of leaving your home country in the wake of war. It also shines a strong light on the outrageous impossibility of the resultant jobs of people like immigration officers who are left to interpret and judge those complexities.

Are our immigration people prepared enough, educated enough? How can they possibly be able to eek out any clear pictures in these wild refugee stories/realities? The confusing reality of these roles of
...more
Rachel Stansel
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Boat People is the fictional story of one man and his son's experience fleeing Sri Lanka. In addition to his experience, we follow a young lawyer and one of the governmental employees assigned to determine who stays in Canada and who is to be deported. I knew nothing about the history of the Tamil people and the plight of those who attempted to flee not just to Canada but to Australia. In the looming fear of terrorism, the determination of who stays and who is returned to almost certain deat ...more
Elizabeth
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Such a thought provoking and nuanced “issues” novel. I really enjoyed all three narrative voices and thought they all equally blended to give a full picture of the issues involved. I was slightly annoyed by the lack of quotation marks - usually a dealbreaker - but it was pretty easy to follow the dialogue. My only real complaint about this one is the stinkin’ ending!!!
Nora
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly beautiful book! I did not know much about the conflicts in Sri Lanka, apart from vaguely having heard of the Tamil Tigers growing up (it was a pretty big deal in when I lived in Norway, for obvious reasons, but I still didn't learn much about it). I was immensely moved by this book, with Bala's great writing making me heavily invested in the characters. A must-read for people living in Canada.
ebookclassics
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, canlit
The Boat People is a really impressive debut novel by Sharon Bala, Based on real events that took place in the early 00s, the book explores the social and emotional issues related to accepting refugees from war-torn Sri Lanka into Canada. She tells the story through the eyes of several characters, including Mahindan, a widowed Tamil father; Priya, a young Canadian law student with a Tamil background; and Grace, an adjudicator whose mother and grandparents were sent to a Japanese internment camp ...more
Rhonda Lomazow
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautifully written a look at the desperate lives of these refugees.who escape on boats& then must adjust to a new world full of racism daily dangers &threats of deportation a very timely read,
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Sharon Bala is trapped on a rock in the cold North Atlantic. Please send mangoes.

Her debut novel, The Boat People, was published by McClelland & Stewart and Doubleday US in January, 2018. The manuscript won the Percy Janes First Novel Award (May 2015) and was short listed for the Fresh Fish Award (October 2015).

In 2017, she won the Journey Prize and had a second story long-listed in the antho
...more
“Did she now know what it was like to have so little agency? To be faced with such cruel options it was as if there was no choice at all?” 2 likes
“I told the girls they could have new sandals. I was brokering a peace agreement.” 0 likes
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