The Boat People

Canadian authorities are prepared when a boat carrying 500 Sri Lankan refugees reaches Vancouver. Their intelligence indicates terrorists are among the immigrants, and the government isn't going to take any chances: the men, women and children are immediately imprisoned.

Among the refugees is Mahindan, a young, widowed father seeking a better life for himself and his son, Sellian. As their imprisonment continues, Mahindan's life in Sri Lanka, and the dangerous route father and son traveled to find safety, is unveiled.

Priya is one of Mahindan's Canadian attorneys. Still a law student, she's assigned to the senior counsel for the refugees' defense because of her Sri Lankan heritage--her parents are immigrants, but she doesn't even speak the language. While she starts out reluctantly, her interactions with Mahindan and the other clients open her eyes to their struggles as well as to a world intimately connected to her family.

Grace cuts her teeth as an adjudicator with the Immigration and Refugee Board in the Sri Lankan investigations. Her former boss, a conservative Cabinet minister, encourages Grace to be tough in her rulings. Her Japanese Canadian mother who endured internment camps presses her to recall those injustices, not repeat them.

In her emotional debut, Sharon Bala composes empathetic characters and encourages her audience to endure their struggles. She grips her readers and dives into the humanity of the world she's created; when they resurface, they'll be gasping for air. Breathlessly beautiful, The Boat People reminds everyone of the value of compassion in a world claiming no shortage of hatred and violence. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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