Recommended Reading List
2018 Canada Reads Finalists
Download list
Please login or register to use this feature.

2018 Canada Reads Finalists

By 49thShelf
0 ratings
rated!
rated!
Let the reading games begin!
The Boat People

The Boat People

edition:Paperback

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 …

More Info
Excerpt

 
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.

close this panel
American War

American War

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

Shortlisted for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
A Globe and Mail Best Book
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A Quill & Quire Best Book of 2017
An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle -- a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War brea …

More Info
Excerpt

An ancient heirloom wristwatch lay upon a rock in the middle of the creek like so many of the functionally deceased things the refugees carried with them—the washed-out photos and the obsolete or corrupted stores of memory and the keys to homes long since bombed out or otherwise demolished—it bore a vital link to some distant, happier past.
“Used to be my grandfather’s,” Ethan said. “My mom’s gonna kill me if I don’t get it back.”
        “So go in there and get it,” Sarat said.
        “Don’t be gross. I’m not gonna step in shit.”
        Another boy whispered something in Ethan’s ear. He liste3ned and nodded.
        “Why don’ you get it, Sarat?” he said. “I’ll give you fifty bucks if you do.”
        Sarat shrugged. “All right.”
Once more she pushed the boys aside and walked away from the creek, toward the nearest tents. A few of the children followed, among them Ethan, who held Sarat by the wrist and warned her against telling any grown-ups.
“I’m not telling anybody,” Sarat said, shaking the boy’s hand loose. “Stop being so scared of everything.”
She walked between two tents, where an unused clothesline hung. She unhooked the metal holders on either tent and rolled the line around her fist. Then she returned to the creek. The children followed.
At the banks she uncoiled the line and tossed it into the ditch. On her first try she fired too far left and then overcompensated. But on the third throw the hook landed just past the rock on which the watch was stranded. Slowly she pulled on the line.
“Careful, careful!” Ethan cried from behind her. “You’re gonna knock it in.”
“Be quiet,” Sarat said.
        She tugged gently on the line until the metal hook rested on the rock just beside the watch. With surgeon’s hands she edged the hook closer until it dislodged the watch from its place. The watch began to slide down the polished side of the rock toward the stream, but caught on the edge of the hook. A couple of the children yelped in triumph.
“You got it!” Ethan yelled. “Pull it in, pull it in.”
        “Hold on,” Sarat said. “Give me that bat of yours.”
One of the boys picked up a baseball bat nearby and handed it to Sarat. With the line still in her left hand, she lifted the bat with her right. She held it as far in front of her as she could without losing her balance. Slowly she began lifting it up underneath the line to create a pivot point. Then she reeled in the catch. The hook lifted, the watch rising with it. As it came off the rock the watch swung and skimmed across the surface of the creek. Coiling the line around her wrist, Sarat pulled the watch in and set it on the ground.
She turned to Ethan. “Pay up,” she said.
The boys stared at the watch on the ground as though it had landed from outer space. Finally Ethan pulled a wad of Redbacks from his pocket and paid Sarat what he owed her.
The children began to disperse. Some of the boys revived their baseball game, a little further away from the creek this time. One of the younger girls, whom Sarat did not know, offered to return the clothesline for her.
As she made to leave, Sarat was approached by another of the boys, a fourteen-year-old from Georgia named Michael. She knew him only tangentially. He was the older brother of a boy named Thomas, who as a toddler had suffered a shrapnel injury that had frozen his mind at the age of two. The older brother had been sleeping in the same bed the night the Birds came, but through blind chance had escaped uninjured.
“Hey, Sarat—wait, girl, where are you going so fast?” Michael said. He pointed at the creek. “I’ll give you another fifty if you go in.”
The departing children halted. Sarat eyed them, and then Michael. He was wiry and lanky, swimming inside his too-big Sinopec Solar T-shirt, a hand-me-down from the Augusta docks.
Sarat said nothing.
“C’mon now,” Michael said. “You ain’t scared, are you?”
He had pasted on his face a smirk with which Sarat was well acquainted. She’d seen the same look on so many of the other boys’ faces over the years. A self-satisfied grin. It was the smirk of knowing he’d left her with an impossible choice—step in the river of filth or be labeled a coward.
Even then, at such a young age, she understood that smile for what it was: a mask atop fear, a balm, for the crippling insecurity of childhoods deeply damaged. They were fragile boys who wore it, and their fragility demanded manage. Sarat knew the boys better than they knew themselves. And she knew there was no winning this dare. That was the point—for there to be no winning, only different magnitudes of losing.
“How do I know you’re not lying,” she said.

close this panel
Precious Cargo

Precious Cargo

My Year of Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077
edition:Paperback

For readers of Kristine Barnett's The Spark, Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree and Ian Brown's The Boy in the Moon, here is a heartfelt, funny and surprising memoir about one year spent driving a bus full of children with special needs.

With his last novel, Cataract City, Craig Davidson established himself as one of our most talented novelists. But before writing that novel and before his previous work, Rust and Bone, was made into a Golden Globe-nominated film, Davidson experienced a period of …

More Info
Forgiveness

Forgiveness

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Hardcover

Finalist for CBC Canada Reads

Finalist for the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the OLA Evergreen Award

#1 National Bestseller

 

When the Second World War broke out, Ralph MacLean chose to escape his troubled life on the Magdalen Islands in eastern Canada and volunteer to serve his country overseas. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Mitsue Sakamoto saw her family and her stable community torn apart after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Like many young Canadian soldiers, Ralph was captured …

More Info
Marrow Thieves

Marrow Thieves

edition:Paperback

Shortlisted for 2018 CBC Canada Reads
Winner of 2017 Governor General's Literary Award (Young People's Literature - Text)
Winner of 2017 Kirkus Prize
Nominated for 2018 Forest of Reading - White Pine Awards
A Globe and Mail Best Book
"A timely and necessary read ... powerful and endlessly smart, it's a crucial work of fiction for people of all ages." Starred Review - Quill & Quire

 

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous p …

More Info
comments powered by Disqus

There are two ways to make a reading list

This way:

  1. Click the "Create a New List" button just above this panel.
  2. Add as many books as you wish using the built-in search on the list edit page.

Or that way:

  1. Go to any book page.
  2. In the right-hand column, click on "Add to List." A drop-down menu will appear.
  3. From the drop-down menu, either add your book to a list you have already created or create a new list.
  4. View and edit your lists anytime on your profile page.
X
Contacting facebook
Please wait...