The Boat People: A Novel

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Jan 9, 2018 - Fiction - 352 pages
Globe and Mail bestseller, The Boat People is an extraordinary novel about a group of refugees who survive a perilous ocean voyage only to face the threat of deportation amid accusations of terrorism

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.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - AnnikaBirgitta - LibraryThing

I did not finish reading this book. Though the story is an interesting one, I found myself bored. There were too many names to remember which made the story confusing at times. I kept fast forwarding throughout the chapters. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - icolford - LibraryThing

Immigration is and, in all likelihood—given the state of the world—will remain a polarizing topic for years to come: a flashpoint for divisive sentiment and lines drawn in the sand. Is it courageous ... Read full review

Selected pages


Happy to Be Here
Ramas Song
The Nature of Things
New World
Law and Order
Dont You Trust

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About the author (2018)

Sharon Bala lives in St. John’s where she is a member of The Port Authority writing group. Her short story “Butter Tea at Starbucks” won the prestigious Writers’ Trust / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize in 2017.  The Boat People is her first novel. Please visit

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