I loved this book. And since I haven’t read any of the other Canada Reads contenders, I’m going to go ahead and say it should’ve won. Yes, I’m that confident! It also won a ton of awards when it was originally published in 2000, so it’s a safe bet.
The Hero’s Walk is a tragic story about a young girl named Nandana who is sent to live with her relatives in India after both of her parents die in a car crash in Canada. The protagonist and patriarch of the family, Sripathi, is suffocated by his grief and guilt after years of ignoring his daughter’s pleas to come visit her. Nandana, his granddaughter, has never been to India and has never before met Sripathi who she suddenly finds herself living with.
Badami’s writing is so descriptive and so beautiful; the chaotic scenes that take place in the seaside town of Toturpuram are described so vividly that they sound enticing even when everything is overrun with rampant poverty. I find the premise of this story very unique as well: Nandana is a young Canadian trying to adapt to such a completely different culture and landscape while struggling with the overwhelming loss of her parents.
I was lucky enough to be have been able to listen to some of the Canada Reads debates while I was at home with my daughter and I recall all of the contestants having only good things to say about this book. Someone made the point that it helped them understand their difficult family members better because Sripathi is a character that many of us see in our own lives — a stubborn old man set in his ways and ready to grumble about anything and everyone. I believe this is the true gift of fiction; the ability to understand another person’s perspective by putting us into someone else’s shoes.
Can I suddenly relate to a fifty-year old Hindu man that has lived his entire life in India? No, of course not. But I can begin to see his opinions as more than simply “wrong” or “outdated which is a valuable lesson that we should never take for granted.
You can get The Hero’s Walk for a good deal because it’s a few years old and available in paperback.
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