The Canada Reads tournament is upon is! In less than 2 weeks, eminent Canadians (including badass Olympian Clara Hughes, who has won multiple medals in both the winter and summer Olympics, and Farah Mohamed, the founder and CEO of G(irls) 20, a social profit enterprise that promotes the economic and educational empowerment of girls and women) will meet to battle for their chosen books.
Five books with the theme of “starting over” have been chosen: The Illegal by Lawrence Hill, Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz, Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter, Birdie by Tracey Lindberg and The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami.
I started with The Hero’s Walk.
Sripathi Rao’s daughter Maya and her husband Alan Baker have been killed in a car accident, leaving behind their 7 year old daughter, Nandana. Sripathi and his daughter have been estranged for nearly a decade and he’s never met his granddaughter but he goes to bring her home to India, where she must learn to live a new life, away from everything she’s ever known. So too must Sripathi come to terms with this permanent estrangement from his daughter, in a world that is becoming less and less familiar. His house is falling down around him and the social constructs that have always governed his life are being broken down around him, given a helping hand by his social activist son, Arun.
I love an inter-generational tale and The Hero’s Walk had plenty of drama to keep me engaged. Sripathi’s mother clings to the old ways of life, when as the wife of a Brahmin lawyer, she was above the rest of society – she tortures her daughter-in-law and refuses to let her 42 year old daughter get married. Nirmala, Sripathi’s wife, devastated by the loss of her daughter before she was able to reconcile her with her father, breaks out of her role as helpful, mild helpmate. She is angry with Sripathi for allowing so much time to go by, to let their daughter die without letting her ever come home and for keeping her away from her granddaughter.
And yet, for all the drama and the struggle to get out from under the oppressive weight of grief and the past, this book was lacking something for me. Maybe this week was the wrong time to read this – I suspect that it might be the kind of book that benefits from spending longer stretches of uninterrupted time with it.
When I was reading it, I was thinking about the tournament and how it holds up the theme of starting over. Obviously Nandana has to start a new life in India with her mother’s family, who are basically strangers. But Nandana’s story is almost a footnote, mute as she decides to be – she is a character that is on the periphery, observing. Sripathi starts over in any number of ways – a life without his daughter or the chance to ever make it right, as a man on the edge of retirement, a man letting go of the old ways of life in this town he’s only ever left once, as a man who is looking at his family in a new way – but I wonder how it will hold up against heavyweights like The Illegal or Minister Without Portfolio. But who knows, maybe this quieter tale of redemption at any age will strike a chord with readers.
I can’t wait to tune into the debate, in any case!
I did receive a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada. This does not affect my review.
20 thoughts on “Canada Reads: The Hero’s Walk”
I hadn’t read very much about this novel before. I do like the idea of a quiet tale of redemption, and I wonder what was missing that might have made the book more compelling for you. That’s really interesting that Nandana’s story is like a footnote. I wonder if you would have felt more engaged if her experience of starting over were more prominent?
I think it was difficult to like Sripathi. He was kind of content to let life happen to him except for this one thing, disowning his daughter, and when he’s made to confront that decision, he just questions the world around him, not necessarily his own actions. I think I would have liked more of the women’s voices to be more clear- Maya, Sripathi’s wife, even his horrible mother, his sister. I would have liked any of them to have more of a voice.
Oh, and I meant to say, I’m really looking forward to following along as you read the other Canada Reads books!
I don’t know if I will get through all of them but I do have 2 more waiting in the wings.
Sometimes the timing of a read makes all the difference doesn’t it? I do like intergenerational tales too so this sounds interesting.
It totally does!
This is the only one I have left to read, so I don’t have anything to say about it yet! I do love, though, that the books don’t have to be recent. It gets me reading books that I might otherwise have not really noticed.
Are you planning to read the others? Which one’s next?
YES. I was thinking the same thing when I realized that this one was from 2001. There was a table of past and present Canada Reads books at Chapters yesterday and it really showed such a breadth of experiences, stories and talents and I was pretty proud.
I have The Illegal and Bone and Bread. Not sure if I will read all of them in the end – definitely not in time for the competition to start next week.
Which one has been your favourite so far?
Either Birdie or Bone & Bread. I think you would really like Bone & Bread – maybe read that one next!
It’s definitely the book I’m most looking forward to reading. I’ve read a few pages and I really liked what I read.
I’ve heard that they are going to start teaching Birdie in law schools!
I heard that, too!
I’m so impressed that you’re reading the Canada Reads books. No longer are you someone who stays away from Can Lit. I just hope the books are good. this is the only one I’ve read.
I know right? I’m like a whole new person! I’ve read a couple of pages of Bone and Bread and I’m intrigued. And I haven’t read anything by Lawrence Hill that I haven’t loved so I’m looking forward to The Illegal.
I love hearing about this tournament! I usually love intergenerational stories, so maybe its just my mood, but this sounds possibly too sad for me.
I would have loved if I got a good cry out of this! Not quite.
The tournament streams online, I’m sure you can catch some of it!
I’m so pumped for CR this year too! I love that you started with this one instead of one of the heavy hitters (though I totally recommend The Illegal!!!). I love that you think about the book in the context of the debate. It’s going to be a good one this year :).
I almost started with Bone and Bread. I’m looking forward to reading The Illegal though – I’ve not yet read anything by Lawrence Hill that I didn’t love.
Reading it ahead of the competition (last year I read 2 of the books when it was over) is definitely different! You think about it in context of the theme but on your own terms instead of trying to line it up with what the ‘champions’ were saying about them.
I’m looking forward to it!
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