"The Hero's Walk" by Anita Rau Badami

Sripathi Rao has made a lot of mistakes in his life but he doesn’t apologize for them. He has a lot of problems but he doesn’t see why he should make any changes because of them. His mother chastises him for never living up to her dream of seeing him become a doctor. His sister is unmarried and well past the average marrying age but that doesn’t stop their mother from scaring off any suitors. His son Arun is involved in political activism but Sripathi thinks he is just lazy. And his daughter Maya is, to Sripathi, the biggest problem of them all.

When Maya broke off her arranged engagement to marry a White Canadian man, Sripathi cut her off completely. He and his wife Nirmala never attended the wedding, never saw Maya again, and never met their granddaughter Nandana. 

But Maya and her husband have been killed in a car accident and Sripathi is seven-year-old Nandana’s only kin. He has to travel to Canada to bring his granddaughter home to their small city of Toturpuram, India. And more importantly, he must face his problems head on and it’s going to take his granddaughter to show him that the only way to do so is for him to make some changes.

The Hero’s Walk, by Anita Rau Badami, is a lovely novel that comes alive with the richness and beauty of its Bay of Bengal setting.

This book was one of the books that vied for the title of Canada Reads this year. It ended up being the runner-up as the last day of debates came down to this book and Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal. It is probably a book that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own (it was published in 2002 and older books aren’t usually on my radar) but I’m glad that it was chosen for this year's competition and I got a chance to read it.

The strength of this book is in the beauty of the writing. The streets of India jump off the page. It takes great skill for a writer to make surroundings transcend the page and as readers journey through this book they will be able to experience the sounds and smells for themselves. That is what I admire most about the book.

The rest of the book was lacking for me. I had trouble connecting with the characters and not in the “I can’t relate to them” way but just that there wasn’t anything about them that made me feel emotion for them.  And because of that, because this book is so character-driven, I had a hard time finding a great connection with this book. I think part of the problem for me was when I was reading the book. This was my last book of the Canada Reads finalists and I had great connections with the previous ones I had read, especially the one I read just before this.

Throughout Canada Reads there was a lot of love for this book and I do think it deserves that. Vinay Virmani defended the book passionately and so much was said about how beautiful this book is and I agree with that. While it wasn’t a solid book for me I can understand how it is for others and I would definitely recommend this book to others even if it wasn’t for me.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher, Penguin Random House Canada. The opinions expressed above are my own.


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