Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter

A Canada Reads contender. The best feature of this book is the physical description of place, especially Newfoundland. The main character, Henry, is hard to feel much about, either positive or negative; his actions often seem confused, especially his relationship with Martha. The theme of Canada Reads this year was “starting over”. Henry’s journey involves several transitions but he doesn’t seem to grow or change that much. Overall, a very good book, deserving to be on the Canada Reads list, but not surprising that MWP was the first book to be voted off the competition.

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

This is a no-brainer since The Illegal has just won the annual Canada Reads competition; happily, I am going to listen to Hill talk about literature at the Banff Centre on April 8. The Illegal is so topical, as it deals with illegal immigrants without documentation. Keita is a runner who literally is running for his life in much of the book. The book is set in a fictional location is the near future and the story telling is compelling with an illegal refugee trying to survive in a world of violence and corruption. The other characters in this novel are vivid and interesting and complex. This is masterful writing; as an aside, Hill is the only 2-time winner of Canada Reads (he won in 2009 for Book of Negroes).

The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami

The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau BadamiA sweeping story of a multi-generational Indian family near Madras: a mean-spirited mother of two, a spinster daughter aged 42 and the older brother Sripathi who is the major figure in this story. Sripathi is married with a stay-at-home son and an estranged daughter living in Vancouver. Sripathi is angry is angry with life: his job; corruption in India; but his major disappointment is his family relationships, in particular his daughter who defied him by rejecting an arranged marriage. All live in a single big house that is decaying literally. A very important element in this book is dealing with change, their declining standard of living. When their estranged daughter is killed in a traffic accident, the 7-year-old grand-daughter (who they have never met) comes to live with them, a fourth generation, forcing them to cope (poorly) with even more change. This is a very fine book about India.

Note: this book is also from the CBC list mentioned above. And later was in the 2016 CBC Canada Reads list)