The Boat People by Sharon BalaThe Boat People by Sharon Bala

The Boat People

bySharon Bala

Paperback | January 2, 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.
SHARON BALA lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She is a member of The Port Authority writing group. The Boat People is her first novel.
Title:The Boat PeopleFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:416 pages, 8.3 × 5.7 × 1.1 inShipping dimensions:8.3 × 5.7 × 1.1 inPublished:January 2, 2018Publisher:McClelland & StewartLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0771024290

ISBN - 13:9780771024290

The Boat People
The Boat People

by Sharon Bala


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Available in stores

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by Cherie Dimaline


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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read This book takes the reader through several perspectives of the immigration process. Love her style of writing.
Date published: 2019-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! This is an amazing book that showcases different viewpoints on refugees, and the struggle that refugees face when trying to enter a country. I love how the author was not preachy but showed the complexities of being a refugee.
Date published: 2018-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book for book club! I loved this book! Very creatively written and keeps the reader engaged and thinking. Great book for a book club!
Date published: 2018-08-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Timely I picked this one up while reading the Canada Reads 2018 shortlist. It was probably my favourite of the five books. It centres around the arrival of 500 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees into British Columbia - an event I was ignorant of. Told from multiple perspectives, The Boat People is a compelling novel and a timely read, considering the current refugee crisis. #plumreview
Date published: 2018-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really loved this book! Read the entire book in a couple days. Couldn't stop reading.
Date published: 2018-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Behind The Scenes Look at Immigration and Refugees 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 one of those issues that many people have many different opinions on but it’s also a novel that is very informative. ***Thank you to Goodreads and the publisher for sending me an advanced reader's copy from a giveaway***
Date published: 2018-07-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from just ok saw a couple of interviews with this author so i picked up the book but i couldn't really get into it and i didn't enjoy it as much as i was hoping to
Date published: 2018-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great read! This book was a good read. I do feel like some parts of the story could have been left out. I wasn't a fan of the ending, but I can understand why the author left it that way. Several parts of the story made me tear up as I could relate to the main characters.
Date published: 2018-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bala is the next Cdn literary great! Bala has certainly set the bar high with her debut novel The Boat People. This historical fiction work tells the story of Canada's messy immigration and refugee system. As a big historical fiction fan, I believe the essential element to a good book is accuracy. It is clear that Bala's inspiration for this work was based on the 2010 case of 500 Tamils illegally arriving in BC via two ships. Though I do not know a great deal about this case, the author proved to have conducted intensive research on the matter, which was cited in the 'Author's Notes' section at the end of the book. This attention to detail was seen throughout the whole novel. The story is told through the experiences of three very different characters: Mahindan, a Tamil asylum seeker and widowed single father; Grace, a stuffy adjudicator confused about her priorities; and Priya, an articulate student thrown into Refugee Law for the first time. Bala does an excellent job of developing each character's story and their respective dilemmas in relation to a case of asylum seekers arriving on the shores of BC. Each with a unique perspective and baggage playing into the case, the novel allows readers to go on a chaotic journey and get a better understanding of the immigration process in our country. Another aspect I appreciated about this book is how masterfully Bala was able to create vivid imagery throughout. I was able to get a very clear picture of all locations and emotions, thus making the work that much more powerful. <spoiler>Perhaps my only slight criticism is how the novel ends. We never actually find out the result of Mahindan's story. Yet, I do sympathize with this ending as I feel like it left me with even more intense emotions towards this disgrace of the system.</spoiler> I believe that Bala is well on her way to becoming a pillar in the modern Canadian literary scene. In my opinion, The Boat People is a piece that should be consumed by ALL Canadians, in an effort to educate the ignorant on the important issues it tackles and hopefully create more public sympathy.
Date published: 2018-06-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I Tried I was incredibly excited to read this book but it took me ages to get halfway through, I didn't even end up finishing it. I wanted to like it so badly but I just wasn't that exciting or interesting.
Date published: 2018-05-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great Read! A wonderful read filled so many perspectives and eye opening
Date published: 2018-05-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Good Book I can't say that this was one of my favourite books but I really enjoyed it.
Date published: 2018-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great Canadian read A great Canadian read. Fantastic characters with many perspectives. Refreshing.
Date published: 2018-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A REALLY GOOD READ!!!! So enlightening in so many ways. Great characters and an exercise in compassion!
Date published: 2018-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Recommendation Phenomenal book filled with so many unseen, overlooked truths and perspectives. I can't stop raving!
Date published: 2018-04-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good read! Enjoyed the author’s development and different perspectives of the characters in the story.
Date published: 2018-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great read A captivating story. Ms. Bala does a fantastic job of describing the perspectives of all of her characters. I could not put it down.
Date published: 2018-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! I love the open ending.. keeps the story going in your mind. In my opinion the winner of this year's Canada Reads
Date published: 2018-03-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I loved it! I though the author did a wonderful job of showing many perspectives
Date published: 2018-03-17
Date published: 2018-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved the Ending I loved the ambiguity of the ending. Rather than tying the story up with a bow, the author leaves us to sit with the complexity of the refugee experience. Told from a range of perspectives, the reader is asked to consider the positions of those we might have ‘othered’ and to think, again.
Date published: 2018-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Such a great read! I though the author did a wonderful job of showing multiple perspectives. I will re-read for sure!
Date published: 2018-03-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Cliff Hanger isn't the Best way to end a book Other than a cliff hanger, it's nice to see the struggle that the Sri Lankan population went through in both Sri Lanka and Canada. It's interesting to also see the perspective of Grace who is a woman on the committee for reviewing immigrants while also being the child of immigrants although her views are not as such. An emotional read as well!
Date published: 2018-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another story for our times I truly enjoyed this book. Even with a cliff-hanger ending it felt nicely wrapped up, even hopeful. The back and forth between characters and time make it an interesting and compelling read. It reminds me (and sometimes we all need reminding) that not all actions were done as a first choice. Like all humans we do our best, and sometimes it is less than ideal.
Date published: 2018-03-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Empathy Enducing I loved the multiple perspectives that this story is told from. Often, this can seem quite jarring but in this book, it served a greater purpose—to remind us that everyone involved in a situation has a different perspective. The ending of the book was a little disappointing, BUT the greater message of the novel exceeds the narrative and still makes it a worth-while read. It's a compelling and thought-provoking novel. Even though it's set almost ten years ago, it still feels eerily relevant. Excellent debut novel from Sharon Bala!
Date published: 2018-03-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Read for Canada Reads! Written from the perspective of the different characters, each an immigrant from one generation or another and how that influenced their opinion and treatment of the refugees from Sri Lanka. I really liked it, as I didn't know much about the turmoil in Sri Lanka nor what happened after the boat landed in 2009. Canadians will gain much insight reading this book and I think it will generate good discussions at Canada Reads.
Date published: 2018-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Liked it A very good novel but I ythink Kim Thuy does a better job of describing the Vietnamese experience in Ru.
Date published: 2018-02-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A good read Emotional and sad but also a bit drawn out in places.
Date published: 2018-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from insightful Great read and gives you a glimpse of what people are struggling with when they are forced to leave their homes in search of safer places.
Date published: 2018-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great story Deals with some very sad subjects, but beautifully written
Date published: 2018-02-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from not the best I received this book as a gift....did not enjoy it
Date published: 2018-02-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Trash Garbage of epic proportions. Give me a break, I am not paying for this.
Date published: 2018-02-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Touching Novel Very emotional and touching book. Hits close to home with the topic of Boat People
Date published: 2018-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic An emotional journey into the lives of each of the characters. Well written, a must read.
Date published: 2018-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly WONDERFUL!!! What a beautifully done book! The author captivated my thoughts and kept me wanting more! MUST HAVE! MUST READ!!
Date published: 2018-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Sharon Butala should be rewarded for telling such a powerful, heart wrenching tale about being a refugee in Canada past 2009. It literally took my breath away to read about the struggle of Tamil persons both within & outside Sri Lanka & how the Canadian Gov't treated them one they arrived upon our shores. There's also a disturbing & enlightening backstory for each of the stories' narrators. It's so well written that I too felt immersed within their dreams & nightmares. A must read for everyone whom 'thinks' they understand the Refugee experience within North America.
Date published: 2018-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Didn't want to put it down! So well written, with vivid descriptions so you feel like you're there with the characters. I didn't want it to end.
Date published: 2018-01-10

Read from the Book

  Beginning July 2009   Mahindan was flat on his back when the screaming began, one arm right-angled over his eyes. He heard the whistle and thud of falling artillery, the cries of the dying. Mortar shells and rockets, the whole world on fire.     Then another sound. It cut through the clamour so that for a drawn-out second there was nothing else, only him and his son and the bomb that arched through the sky with a shrill banshee scream, spinning nose aimed straight for them. Mahindan fought to open his eyes. His limbs were pinned down and heavy. He struggled to move, to call out in terror, to clamber and run. The ground rumbled. The shell exploded, shards of hot metal spitting in its wake. The tent was rent in half. Mahindan jolted awake.     Heart like a sledgehammer, he sat up frantic, blinking into the darkness. He heard someone panting and long seconds later realized it was him. The echoing whine of flying shrapnel faded and he returned to the present, to the coir mat under him, back to the hold of the ship.     There were snores and snuffles, the small nocturnal noises of five hundred slumbering bodies. Beneath him, the engine’s monotonous whir. He reached out, instinctive, felt his son Sellian curled up beside him, then lay down again. The back of his neck was damp.     His pulse still raced. He smelled the sourness of his skin, the raw animal stink of the bodies all around. The man on the next mat slept with his mouth open. His snore was a revving motorcycle, so close Mahindan could almost feel the warm exhales.     He put his hand against Sellian’s back, felt it move up and down. Gradually, his own breathing slowed to the same rhythm. He ran a hand through his son’s hair, fine and silky, the soft strands of a child, then stroked his arm, felt the roughness of his skin, the long, thin scratches, the scabbed-over insect bites. Sellian was slight. Six years old and barely three feet tall. How little space the child occupied, coiled into himself, his thumb in his mouth. How precarious his existence, how miraculous his survival.     Mahindan’s vision adjusted and shapes emerged out of the gloom. The thin rails on either side of the ladder. Lamps strung up along an electrical cord. Outside the porthole window, it was still pitch-black.     Careful not to wake Sellian, he stood and gingerly made his way across the width of the ship toward the ladder, stepping between bodies huddled on thin mats and ducking under sleepers swaying overhead, cocooned in rope hammocks. It was hot and close, the atmosphere suffocating.     Hema’s thick plait trailed out on the dirty floor. Mahindan stooped to pick it up and laid it gently on her back as he passed by. Her two daughters shared the mat beside her; they lay on their sides facing each other, knees and foreheads touching. A few feet on, he passed the man with the amputated leg and averted his gaze.     During the day the ship was rowdy with voices, but now he heard only the slap of the electrical cord against the wall, everyone breathing in and out, recycling the same stale, diesel-scented air.     A boy cried out in his sleep, caught in a nightmare, and when Mahindan turned toward the sound, he saw Kumuran’s wife comfort her son. With both hands grasping the banisters, Mahindan hoisted himself up the ladder. Emerging onto the deck, inhaling the fresh scent of salt and sea, he felt immediately lighter. From overhead, the mast creaked and he gazed up to see the stars, the half-appam moon glowing alive in the sky. At the thought of appam – doughy, hot off the fire – his stomach gave a plaintive, hollow grumble.     It was dark, but he knew his way around the ship. A dozen plastic buckets were lined up along the stern. He squatted in front of one and formed his hands into a bowl. The water was tepid, murky with twigs and bits of seaweed. He splashed water on his face and the back of his neck, feeling the grit scratch his skin.     The boat – a sixty-metre freighter, past its prime and jerry-rigged for five hundred passengers – was cruising through calm waters, groaning under the weight of too much human cargo. Mahindan held on to the railing, rubbing a thumb against the blistered rust.     A few others were out, shadowy figures keeping silent vigil on both levels of the deck. They had been at sea for weeks or months, sunrises blurring into sunsets. Days spent on deck, tarps draped overhead to block out the sun, and the floor burning beneath them. Stormy nights when the ship would lurch and reel, Sellian cradled in Mahindan’s lap, their stomachs tumbling with the pitch and yaw of the angry ocean.     But the captain had said they were close and for days they had been expecting land, a man posted at all times in the crow’s nest.     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. —— He awoke to commotion and gull shrieks. A boy ran down the length of the ship calling for his father. Appa! Appa! There were more people on the deck now, all of them speaking in loud, excited voices.     The man they called Ranga stood at the railing beside him, staring out. Mahindan was dismayed to see him.     Land is close, Ranga said.     Mahindan scanned the straight line of the ocean, trying not to blink. Nearby, a young man stood on the rail and levered his body half out of the boat. An older woman called out: Take care!     After all this time, finally we have arrived, Ranga said. He grinned at Mahindan and added: Because of you only, I am here.     Nothing to do with me, Mahindan said. We all took our own chance.     Mahindan kept his gaze fixed on the horizon. At first he saw the head of a pin, far in the distance, but as he kept watching, the vision emerged. Purple-brown land and blue mountains like ghosts rising in the background. The newspaperman came to join them as the slope of a forest appeared. Mahindan had spoken to him a few times but could not recall his name. Someone said he had been working for a paper in Colombo before he fled.     We will be intercepted, the newspaperman said. Americans or Canadians, who will catch us first?     Catch us? Ranga repeated, his voice rising to a squeak.     But now there were people streaming onto the deck, squeezing in for a view at the railing, and the newspaperman was jostled away. Mahindan edged aside too, relieved to put distance between himself and Ranga.     There were voices and bodies everywhere. Women plaited their hair over one shoulder. Men pulled their arms through their T-shirts. Most were barefoot. People pressed up around him. The boat creaked and Mahindan felt it list, as everyone crowded in. They stood shoulder to shoulder, people on both levels of the deck, hushing one another, children holding their breath. The trees, the mountains, the strip of beach they could now make out up ahead, it all seemed impossibly big, unreal after days and nights of nothing but sea and sky and the rumbling of the ship. Nightmares of rusted steel finally giving way, belching them all into the ocean.     Sellian appeared, squeezing himself between legs, one fist against his eyes. Appa, you left me!     How to leave? Mahindan said. Did you think I jumped in the ocean? He picked his son up in the crook of one arm and pointed. Look! We’re here.     The clouds burned orange. Mahindan squinted. People shouted and pointed. Look!     There was a tugboat in the water and a larger ship, its long nose turned up, speeding toward them, sleek and fast, with a tall white flagpole. The wind unfurled the flag, red and white, majestic in the flaming sky. They saw the leaf and a great resounding cheer shook the boat.     The captain cut the engine and they floated placid. Overhead, there was a chopping sound. Mahindan saw a helicopter, its blades slicing the sky, a red leaf painted on its belly. There were three boats now, all of them circling the ship, a welcome party. On the deck, people waved with both hands. The red-and-white flag snapped definitive.     Mahindan gripped his son. Sellian shivered in his arms, from fear, from exhilaration, he couldn’t tell. Soon Mahindan was shaking too, armpits dampening. His teeth clattered.     Their new life. It was just beginning.

Bookclub Guide

Discussion Questions for The Boat People   1. Why do you think the author chose The Boat People as her title? Throughout history, the term “boat people” has been used to refer to different waves of migrants. Who did you think the boat people of the title were going to be? What other examples of “boat people” are you aware of?   2. Consider the book’s epigraph by Martin Luther King Jr.: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” How does this epigraph relate to the plot or set the stage for the themes explored in the book?   3. Author Sharon Bala has said that she wrote the novel as a “meditation on empathy.” Discuss how the novel explores both the need for empathy as well as how it is tested.   4. The novel is told through the perspectives of three characters: Priya, Grace, and Mahindan, both in the present and in the past. What do you think the reader gains by having access to these different points of view? What do each of these perspectives bring to the story? Whose story did you enjoy most? Whose story surprised you the most?   5. Examine the relationships between parents and their children in the book. How would you characterize these relationships? What does being a parent mean to Mahindan, Grace, Kumi, Appa, and Hema? What sacrifices have these parents made for their children? Discuss the expectations the parents have for their children.   6. On p.53, Grace’s mother, Kumi, describes how her parents “kept quiet” about what the family endured during the internment of Japanese Canadians, because they “thought they were protecting us.” Later, on p.109, Grace recalls her grandmother telling her to “Focus on tomorrow. No point regretting yesterday.” Priya’s parents and Uncle Romesh also choose not to tell Priya or Rat about their past in Sri Lanka but for different reasons. What would you have done in their shoes? How did you feel about the bond that develops between Kumi and her granddaughters as they join in her “family history project” (p.200)? How forthcoming have your own relatives been about your family’s past?    7. Kumi is suffering from Alzheimer’s. In what ways does her illness reflect some of the book’s themes?   8. On p.54, Priya recognizes Charlie “as someone both fluently Canadian and authentically Sri Lankan, one of those third-culture people who slipped in and out of identities like shoes.” How does Priya feel about her own ability to negotiate between her two identities? How does this compare with how Priya is viewed by her Sri Lankan clients?   9. On p.105, Grace and her daughters review the Japanese terms Issei, Nisei, Sansei, and Yonsei, literally first-, second-, third-, and fourth-generation. Priya and her brother, Rat (Michael), are first-generation Canadians, while Grace is a third-generation Canadian. Yet, despite being born in Canada, they each have their moments of cultural conflict. Examine these instances. As possible first-generation Canadians, how do you think Hema’s daughters (Tara and Padmini) and Sellian will fare in the future?   10. Many of the characters have to let go of certain possessions over the course of the novel. For example, Mahindan has to relinquish his grandfather’s suitcase, and Priya gives away some of her mother’s saris. What do other characters give up, both literally and metaphorically? In contrast, Kumi is constantly losing personal items, while at the same time trying to locate documentation such as deeds and ledgers related to the family’s former home and business. Sellian also manages to hold on to his Ganesha statue. Discuss the significance of what these characters surrender or hold on to, and how it reflects on their stories.   11. What is the significance of The Nature of Things episode described on p.84, especially in relation to what Fred Blair tells Grace in the final paragraph on p.91?   12. On p.103, about the game show hostess on The Price Is Right, Mahindan remarks, “She was not part of the compe­tition. Or she had already won. And this was the ultimate prize, being onstage among all the beautiful things.” Why does he think she is already a winner?   13. On p.32, the interpreter tells Mahindan, “You have come to a good place. There is room for you here.” Later, on p.119, former prime minister Brian Mulroney is quoted as saying, “Canada is not in the business of turning refugees away. If we err, let it be on the side of compassion.” Discuss the portrayal of the Canadian refugee system in the book. Has it changed your perspective on the traditional representation of Canada as a welcoming nation?   14. Discuss the concept of the “model migrant.” Over the course of the novel, we learn of the morally ambiguous choices made by Mahindan and Uncle Romesh. What would you have done? How did you feel about the comparisons Mahindan makes on p.146?    15. What did you make of Grace’s interactions with Fred Blair and Mitchell Hurst, respectively? Do you feel Mitchell Hurst’s suspicion is justified?   16. In “Back to hell” (p.148), Grace bristles at what she perceives to be ambiguities in Hema’s testimony, whether it’s the use of the word caught instead of recruited, or the varying reports about whether the army soldiers were shooting at the defectors or helping them to escape. Do you feel her reaction is warranted? What do you make of Grace’s tendency to avoid referring to the refugee claimants by name?   17. Are Grace’s fears justified or is she being over-cautious? What decision do you think she makes in the end?   18. Many of the migrants learn to speak English over the course of the novel. Did their experiences remind you of your own experiences while learning English, French, or another language?   19. Has your perspective on immigrants and refugees changed after reading this book? Is there anything you now see differently?   20. Were you of the same mind regarding whether Mahindan should be allowed to stay or not throughout the novel? At what points did you waver one way or the other? How did you feel in the end?   21. Discuss the book’s ending. Why do you think the author chose to end the book when she does?     22. Some of the book’s most riveting scenes take place in Sri Lanka during the civil war. What other books have you read that take place during a time of war, civil or otherwise? How did those portrayals compare to the scenes in this novel? Had you heard of the Sri Lankan Civil War before reading this book? What were your impressions of Sri Lanka prior to reading this novel?   23. When asked about how the historical events of her novel increasingly appear pulled from today’s headlines, Bala has said that she never expected the book’s plot to “sound like warning bells rather than history lessons.” How is the novel relevant for us today?   24. Who would you recommend The Boat People to? Why?          

Editorial Reviews

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLERFINALIST FOR CBC CANADA READSArtsNL CBC Emerging Artist of the Year Award WinnerFirst Novel Award finalistPraise for The Boat People: "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 book perfect for our times, essential reading to bring context to questions which we are, perhaps, more inclined to ignore." —Toronto Star"A novel comprised of both beautiful and uncomfortable truths, written by an author who understands there are multiple sides to every issue – and to every human being." —Globe and Mail"The Boat People is full of drama and character, sharp bold sentences and movement of all sorts, global and interior. Gorgeous writing, compassionate and urgent." —Lisa Moore“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“The Boat People is a beautifully crafted story with a big heart. This novel has an urgency and relevance that cuts to the bone and will resonate with readers of all stripes. Bala offers no easy answers and no political posturing, but her magnificent storytelling will leave readers wondering about their own convictions, asking themselves, ‘What would I do? What would I have done?’ The spirits of Bala’s complicated, well-developed characters will linger with you like ghosts; you will look for them in the newspaper, on the evening news, everywhere, and when you encounter them, you will pause and wonder, not only about them but about yourself.” —Michael Stone, author of Border Child