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Canada Reads Finalist: The Hero's Walk by Anita Rao Badami

I read The Hero's Walk years ago. Upon revisiting it, I was reminded how beautiful a novel it was, but by the same token I was curious why it was deemed a #CanadaReads selection.


Let me explain. Anita Rao Badami is a master at capturing the sights, sounds and smells of the Indian landscape and infusing humanity into her stories. She does this with characters and situations that embody the complexity of relationships. In the Hero's Walk, protagonist Sripathi Rao brings us into the world set mostly in India, in the dusty seaside town of Toturpuram on the Bay of Bengal.

At fifty-seven, Sripathi has become a jaded, grumpy, ill-tempered man who is headed down a road doomed to consume him. Once the son of a wealthy Brahmin man, he now is struggling to keep hold of the family's crumbling mansion, once an ostentatious symbol of their wealth and status. He hasn't spoken to his daughter Maya in nine years, since she left for her studies abroad and settled in Vancouver with her husband Alan Baker. The reason? Sripathi could not accept his daughter's interracial/intercultural relationship...not even when Maya and Alan had a daughter, Nandana. 

But, when Maya and Alan are killed in an accident, as Nandana's legal guardian, Sripathi travels to Vancouver to bring his seven-year-old granddaughter back to India. 

The story is Indian in every way from the setting, the traditions, and the complexity of intercaste /inter-cultural relationships. Despite it being a story that embodies the elements of a gripping plot, with infusions of drama, tragedy and love, the story lacked in its ability to convince me of its #CanadaReads validity. Sure, there is the Vancouver connection, but is just dipping your toe in Canadian waters enough to warrant a #CanadaReads nomination? Perhaps I just would have liked a little bit more Canadiana in it, to convince me of its credentials.

I have tried to understand why I feel The Hero's Walk is circumspect as a contender. The fact that I was interviewed by CBC's Mary Ito of Fresh Air on the subject of 2016's #CanadaReads contenders, and I argued for Bone and Bread, undoubtedly colours my perception. This after all, is a competition and given that this year's #CanadaReads theme was one of "Starting Over" I felt that what I was championing better fit that theme.

Moreover, after reviewing Saleema Nawaz's Bone & Bread, I'm acutely sensitive to uncovering the characteristics that make Anita Rao Badami's The Hero's Walk a book that should (or should not) win the coveted #CanadaReads award. 

My perspective informs me to state that The Hero's Walk is a great book but by the same token, it questions whether it meets the criteria for a great piece of "Can Lit" (Canadian Literature). What constitutes a Can Lit novel? Is it a story that's told primarily within the Canadian landscape? Is it stories that are told by authors of Canadian descent? Having read a slew of #CanadaReads contenders over the years, I would argue that that should be the case. 

But honestly, The Hero's Walk has thrown me for a loop. I read it years ago, and I know I loved it then. When I first heard about the debates I felt that this would indeed be the book I would be championing: I had read it; it was also a book that I felt really spoke to me on an emotional level at the time; and I remember being drawn to the copywriter connection, having myself worked at some of the top advertising agencies during the span of my career. 

But now, upon greater reflection and reviewing this book with a critical eye, I have to ask myself whether this is the one book that will be relatable to everyone in Canada, and best embodies this year's theme of starting over. Perhaps you have to read it for yourself and tune into the #CanadaReads debates on CBC from March 21-24th to see the results. 

These are the 5 #CanadaReads finalists:

1. Bone & Bread by @pinkmeringue | Defended by @FarahMohamed007 | 

2. The Hero's Walk by @anita_badami | Defended by @Vinayvirmani24 | 
3. The Illegal by Lawrence Hill | Defended by @ClaraHughes_ | 
4.Minister Without Portfolio by @MichaelWinter34 | Defended by @EdgeRatedR |

5. Birdie by @TraceyLindberg | Defended by @brucepoontip |

The Hero's Walk is published by Penguin Random House Canada. 

Blog post by @ShilpaRaikar (Creative and Social Media strategist, decor enthusiast and book lover, who also writes for a branding blog:, as well as a lifestyle blog: T: @SukasaStyle) 

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