Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Title: Bone & Bread
Author: Saleema Nawaz
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Purchased
Publishing Date: March 15, 2013

The book begins with Beena and her son, Quinn, freshly grieving the loss of a family member. Beena's younger sister, Sadhana, was found dead in her apartment. The book flips back and forth between Been and Sadhana's childhood and the years leading up to Sadhana's passing. 

Beena and Sadhana's upbringing is filled with love, loss and abandonment. This forges a unique bond between them. The sisters are orphaned as teenagers after the sudden loss of their father from a heart attack and the accidental death of their mother years later. This leaves the girls in the care of their Sikh uncle. He was simply a guardian. He gave them food, a roof and and all the other basic necessities. In exchange, the girls had to cook and clean. 

"I pitied him, even as he banged the table and demanded we refill his water glass, denouncing us as the worst cooks and the worst girls anyone was ever unfortunate enough to have as nieces." Loc 1355

The three live a cramped apartment above their uncle's bagel shop located in a Hasidic community of Montreal's Mile End. 

The girls stuck together as their learned to cope without their mother. However, as Beena and Sadhana enter high school, the unique differences in their personality and social circles become 
more evident. Beena, the elder sister, is content with being unnoticed. Sadhana on the other hand prefers being in the spotlight. She is the star of school plays, an elite athlete and hangs out with all the right people. Sadhana's popularity and obsession with her looks came with a price. The added pressure had a negative impact on her mental and physical health. Sadhana dealt with her anorexia from the time she was a teenager and all throughout adulthood.

"I remember Sadhana having a theory that, however it might torment and elude those who seek it, beauty, and love of beauty, is what makes us civilized." Loc 1480

It is difficult to find happy moments throughout this book as it is riddled with sadness. Readers feel the girls' anguish as they become young women without the love and guidance of parents who show them love and compassion. Many times throughout the book, you can't help but feel for Beena as she attempts to care for her ailing sister, her newborn and herself at the age of sixteen. The love she has for both of them pushes her to endure.

"And the work of getting closer, of loving harder, is the work of a whole life." Loc 5200

Bone & Bread is nothing like I have read before. Saleema Nawaz's writing is absolutely beautiful. She tells a story that is vivid and steadily paced with just a dash of suspense. Each one of her characters were believable and I couldn't help but care for them as I continued to flip through the pages. I would recommend this book to all readers. Be prepared for the feelings of sadness that it will bring. But, rest assured that the love Beena and Sadhana share will be enough to lighten the mood. 

Canada Reads
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Bone & Bread was my first choice from the 2016 Canada Reads short list. This year's theme is "starting over". This book hits this year's theme right out of the park. Beena and Sadhana live through so much loss that they've had to "start over" more times than most. Bone & Bread is being defended by Farah Mohamed. Given her professional background and accomplishments, is the perfect panellist to do so. It's hard to say at the moment where I think this book will finish in the competition as I have four more to go. But, I think it's going to be a strong contender.

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