Sharon Bala's debut novel, The Boat People - the story of a refugee's desperate bid for freedom - is forthcoming from McClelland & Stewart and Doubleday US (January 2018).
At the book's heart is Mahindan, a survivor of the Sri Lankan civil war. When the rusty cargo ship carrying him and 500 fellow refugees reaches safe Canadian shores, he thinks the struggle is finally over. But his journey has only begun. Set in Vancouver and Sri Lanka, The Boat People follows Mahindan and his young son as they are separated, imprisoned, and forced to navigate the morass of the refugee system. Their reluctant immigration lawyer, Priya, is a first-generation Sri Lankan-Canadian whose father has enigmatically warned her not to “get mixed up in all of that.” Grace, a third generation Japanese-Canadian, is the adjudicator who must decide Mahindan’s fate. Will she allow him to stay and start a new life in Canada or deport him back to certain death?
Inspired by real life events, The Boat People is a timely novel about identity and belonging; family secrets and loss; and the rift that forms between immigrant parents and their third culture children.
The manuscript won the Percy Janes First Novel Award (May 2015) and was short-listed for the Fresh Fish Award (October 2015). American and Canadian publishing rights were jointly acquired in a pre-empt by Anita Chong (McClelland & Stewart) and Melissa Danaczko (Doubleday US). The book is represented by Stephanie Sinclair at Transatlantic Agency.