Sharon Bala‘s THE BOAT PEOPLE (McClelland & Stewart Canada) has been shortlisted for Canada Reads 2018 – exactly four weeks since publication!!

Canada Reads is an annual contest in which five Canadian celebrity panellists champion a chosen work of Canadian fiction based on the novel’s literary qualities. The debates are broadcast on CBC Radio One, CBC-TV and can be live streamed at Books are voted off by the panellists until one book is chosen as the title the entire country should read.

THE BOAT PEOPLE follows a group of refugees who survive a perilous ocean voyage only to face the threat of deportation amid accusations of terrorism.

For the full shortlist, please visit:

Congratulations, Sharon, on this incredible achievement!


Accolades and Praise for THE BOAT PEOPLE

• Amazon Pick of the Month
• iBooks Feature- Best Books of the Month
• iBooks Feature-Winter’s Most Anticipated Fiction
• One World, One Book Selection
• CBC Books Canadian fiction to watch for in the first half of 2018
• Jael Richardson’s, Q Radio contributor, first book pick of 2018
• A Globe and Mail Bestseller

“Timely and engrossing…This is a powerful debut.”
-Publishers Weekly

“This earnest debut novel forcefully explores the issues surrounding immigration…deeply moving and nuanced, The Boat People asks what price a country is willing to pay when public safety comes at the cost of human lives.”

“A real ship of refugees inspires a novel about the messy consequences of war…Memorable…Chilling…”
-Kirkus Reviews

“Rooted in actual events, Bala uses the tools of fiction to excavate the human truths hidden under the headlines…The Boat People succeeds not because it has answers, but because of how it foregrounds the questions: who are we as individuals? Who are we as a culture, as a society? How do our beliefs, our empathy, survive in the face of confusion and the threat of deception and violence?…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

“Bala displays her talent as a compassionate, reflective author…This is a work of fiction, but it’s so very real…Ultimately, this is 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…Bala has vividly conjured worlds, both on Canadian soil and back in Sri Lanka, that show the dualities of living in any country…What we also get from a novel like this is a new way of seeing.”
–The Globe and Mail

“Cinematic details transport us to a tension-rich drama. Bala moves fluidly from past to present, mixing memories with current crises…juxtapositions build and maintain suspense all the way to the last line, where readers are left hanging, as if justice is in our hands…The Boat People reminds us of the fragile nature of truth.”

The Boat People will—and should…—linger long in the mind as an almost Graham-Greene-esque thriller about Canada’s Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. Homeric in her narrative arc, Bala’s novel is rhetorically purposive—but poetically, softly rhetorical…Bala is ahead by a century in the cricket score of politically powerful contemporary fiction.”
-Atlantic Books Today

“In this moving novel, hundreds of Sri Lankan refugees make a dangerous voyage to seek asylum in Canada. The threat of deportation soon follows their arrival, sparking questions about compassion and humanity and identity—identity, in all its transformative complexities.”
-Southern Living

“A sharp examination of the global refugee crisis from both human and bureaucratic perspectives.”
-Toronto Life

The Boat People tackles a subject that we all should be thinking about and working on, together, today.”

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?’ I love this book and, somehow, I empathized and understood every character’s motivation and heart, despite their seemingly opposing stances. 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.”
-Michel Stone, author of Border Child

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 and 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