Bone & Bread

Title: Bone & Bread

Author: Saleema Nawaz

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Release Date: February 26 2013

Source: Chapters

Rating: 4/5

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Beena and Sadhana are sisters who share a bond that could only have shaped by the most unusual of childhoods — and by shared tragedy.  Orphaned as teenagers, they have grown up under the exasperated watch of their Sikh uncle, who runs a bagel shop in Montreal’s Hasidic community of Mile End.  Together, they try to make sense of the rich, confusing brews of values, rituals, and beliefs that form their inheritance.  Yet as they grow towards adulthood, their paths begin to diverge.  Beena catches the attention of one of the “bagel boys” and finds herself pregnant at sixteen, while Sadhana drives herself to perfectionism and anorexia.  Goodreads

The fact that this novel was a finalist for Canada Reads 2016 comes to no surprise to me, in fact, it was one of the main reasons why I picked it up in the first place.  Nawaz wrote a powerful story of sisterhood with beautiful prose to match.  The characterization of the sisters, albeit a little two-dimensional at times, have the opportunity to grow and become more intricate with the alternating timelines that intertwine their struggles with teenage pregnancy, mental health, and the death of two parents.

As a Canadian, who lives and Ottawa and who has traveled to Montreal many times, it was exciting to read a novel whose setting was easily identifiable.  It was interesting to be able to follow the characters as they themselves walk around the neighbourhoods of downtown Ottawa and be able to know, to a certain degree, exactly where they were based on Nawaz’ rich and detailed descriptions of the cityscape.

The only thing I’m kind of on the fence about was Libby’s entire subplot within the novel.  I ultimately felt really annoyed with Libby’s character.  She takes forever to actually come out and say what she needs to tell Beena and without giving too much away, what she finally says actually enraged me so much I had to put the book down — it was so, so stupid.

Nawaz truly encapsulates everything life has to offer, all of the good and all of the bad.  And like life itself, this novel made me laugh and cry — sometimes at the same time — because, as we learn from Beena’s and Sadhana’s stories, life is short and we must take everything it has to give.

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