Reviews of Canada Reads Books: 2016
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This is a story of belonging, of how our past shapes us. Henry Hayward has no family, has just lost a long-term girlfriend, and feels responsible for the death of his friend, Tender Morris. He is searching for meaning in his life, trying to put down roots and find his "100 people" whom he can be connected with.
The writing style is beautifully descriptive of both the Newfoundland geography and culture. And, it contributes to excellent character development as we are able to see Henry's thoughts as they are forming.
I enjoyed this book, although I found it hard to relate to Henry. I worry that he has simply assumed Tender's life and has yet to find his own.
I did enjoy reading this book, but felt that the story would have been stronger had it been pared down or tightened up a bit. The detailed digressions into the immigrants' story, as well as the drawn out nature of Beena's relationship with Libby detracted from the emotional punch.
I am not sure how the defender will argue that this is a book about starting over.
The Illegal is the story of an illegal immigrant, Keita Ali, who has fled a corrupt regime that has murdered his father. He is a marathon runner, and is recruited by an agent, but that agent hold Keita's passport and will send him back to his home country after his first race, so Keita flees and goes into hiding.
This novel is primarily driven by plot. Mr. Hill does a great job of writing a complex story of corruption, murder, ageism and racism. The book is both a page-turner and an examination of these issues. Some of the characters might not be fully realized, but the main ones were strongly drawn. Some of the plot seemed a bit like watching a TV crime show -- with the need to wrap it up on time -- but overall, I enjoyed this book.
I think it will be very topical in the debates as it deals with immigration and refugees, and how they have to start over in a new place.
This is both a wonderfully crafted book and an excellent story about the effects of abuse and the power of healing.
I'll start with the crafting. The book includes stories/legends in the Cree tradition, as well as symbolic dreams. The author weaves these into the story to bring a deeper meaning or context to the thoughts and actions of the main character, Bernice/Birdie.
Because, on the surface, Bernice isn't doing much. She has taken to her bed and doesn't appear to be moving, eating or interacting with anyone....her Auntie Val, cousin Freda and employer/landlord/friend Lola hover about with concern, love and, at times, exasperation.
But, through the dreams and through the main story, we learn of Bernice's life. She is a victim of incest, poverty and racial discrimination. Her story is one all too common in Canada, where generations of Aboriginal children were removed from their homes, causing a multitude problems that didn't end when the schools closed. That legacy, while not explicitly mentioned, permeates the story.
As Bernice struggles to make peace with her past, we read a story that is at times, tragic, but also heartwarming as generations of women struggle to do the best they can for themselves and, most often, for each other. There are even humourous moments, making the characters so very real. An excellent choice for Canada Reads.
A tragic car accident in Canada leaves 7-year-old Nandana orphaned, with no family except her grandparents, uncle, great-aunt and great-grandmother in India. Nandana has never met her Indian family because her grandfather disowned her mother when she married a Canadian. Now, that grandfather has come to Vancouver to bring her "home" to India.
While the circumstance of an orphaned child and the exotic setting of India underlie the story, it is one of universal themes. Sripathi Rao (the grandfather) is nearing 60 and examining his life. His job is unsatisfying. His house is old and crowded. His mother, disappointed that he never became a doctor, continues to show her disapproval of him. His son hasn't got a job; his 40-something sister is unmarried. His deceased daughter, in his mind, brought shame on the family by marrying out of caste and out of race. And now, he has a grand-daughter to raise, one who won't speak. Sripathi struggles to do his duty to his extended family, but his own inflexible ideals sometimes get in the way. He is basically a good man, but flawed; he is getting older and starting to wonder about his choices.
The story is well told, with both humour and pathos in the right proportions. Maybe a bit slow at times, as some reviewers have said, but that allowed me to think more deeply about Sripathi. He was, in some way, at a crossroad in his life. Would he continue with the beliefs and grievances he's long held, or take a bold step to a stronger connection with his family.
Beena and Sadhana have an East Indian father and a white mother. They were raised in Montreal, Quebec. Sadhana is two years younger than Beena. Their father died when they were young and their mother when they were teenagers; they are then in the custody of their uncle, who runs the bagel shop (originally owned by their father) downstairs. As they grow up, they each run into teen girl problems (serious ones, not small ones), which I won’t mention, as they aren’t revealed until later in the book (though the blurb does reveal them, as do some tags).
The book is told by Beena in the “present day”, just after Sadhana has died. Sadhana lived alone and was not discovered for a week. Beena has to go clean up the apartment, and brings along her teenage son to help. The book goes back and forth between present day and Beena’s memories of she and her sister growing up.
It started off slow for me, but it did get better. I didn’t always like Beena and the decisions she made, but I could say the same of Sadhana. I don’t have a sister, but it seems that it was likely a good portrayal of sisters. There really was a Canadian flavour to the book, as well, with a look at some of the politics in Quebec.
Bernice (aka Birdie) is a Cree woman and has recently come to Gibsons, British Columbia, where The Beachcombers was filmed. Bernice has had a crush on the only Indian character, Jesse, since she was younger. The story goes back and forth in time from Bernice in Gibsons to growing up in Alberta.
I just didn’t find this book very interesting, so my mind wandered. The most interesting parts were when she was growing up, but in general, I wasn’t interested and didn’t really care. Even less was I interested in the little bit of poetry(???) at the end of each chapter and the bit of dreaming(???) at the start of each chapter. Those parts, I barely skimmed, if I didn’t skip them altogether.