Happy Thursday! Today I have a review of The Boat People, now available in trade paperback from Vintage & Anchor Books/Knopf Doubleday!
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 ship.
There are three narrators: Mahindan; Grace, an adjudicator who decides Mahindan’s fate; and Priya, Mahindan’s lawyer, whose background is Sri Lankan.
The heart of this novel is the voice it gives to the refugee experience, especially in the times in which we are living. Sharon Bala offers a round perspective on the red tape, processing, politics, and legalities that are at play; things we don’t often think about.
We also gain a perspective on what Mahindan is desperate to escape from- the bloody Sri Lankan civil war. In addition, there are glimpses into the happy times prior to the war, which is a nice reprieve from all the darkness and strife.
Mahindan was without a doubt my favorite narrator, and I’m grateful to have heard from him. It took some time to understand why the other narrators were present, but in the end, they absolutely offered an important perspective.
Overall, I found The Boat People to be a relevant and timely look at a refugee experience. I instantly connected to Mahindan and the fact that this story was based on true events.
Thank you to the publisher for the complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
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 members of a separatist militant organization responsible for countless suicide attacks—and that these terrorists now pose a threat to Canada’s national security. As the refugees become subject to heavy interrogation, Mahindan begins to fear that a desperate act taken in Sri Lanka to fund their escape may now jeopardize his and his son’s chance for asylum.
Told through the alternating perspectives of Mahindan; his lawyer, Priya, a second-generation Sri Lankan Canadian who reluctantly represents the refugees; and Grace, a third-generation Japanese Canadian adjudicator who must decide Mahindan’s fate as evidence mounts against him, The Boat People is a spellbinding and timely novel that provokes a deeply compassionate lens through which to view the current refugee crisis.
Have you read The Boat People, or is it on your TBR? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR