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Publisher's Summary

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 500 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.
©2018 Sharon Bala (P)2018 McClelland & Stewart
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Critic Reviews

" The Boat People is a burning flare of a novel, at once incendiary and illuminating. With a rare combination of precision, empathy and insight, Sharon Bala has crafted an unflinching examination of what happens when the fundamental human need for safety collides with the cold calculus of bureaucracy. In the best tradition of fearless literature, it shatters our comfortable illusions about who we really are, reveals just how asymmetrical the privilege of belonging can be. This is a brilliant debut - a story that needs to be told, told beautifully." (Omar El Akkad, author of American War)
" The Boat People is a powerful, gripping moral drama told with deep compassion and humanity. Sharon Bala takes us behind the headlines about refugees and asylum seekers straight into the beating hearts of unforgettable human beings. A timely tale and a beautiful, remarkable debut." (Lynne Kutsukake, author of The Translation of Love)
"This wise and compassionate novel is an intimate portrait of one of the great humanitarian crises of our time. Its power lies in its breadth, for it examines not just those who come to our country seeking refuge, but also those who determine their fate. As such it implicates us all in the ongoing crisis." (Shyam Selvadurai, author of The Hungry Ghosts and Funny Boy)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Anonymous User on 02-01-18

Cad immigration past & president wrapped in prose

amazing story reflecting the layered history of Canadian immigration with a dash of current day news, emotion, opinions & prejudice.

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