Winner of the Quebec Writers' Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction.
Shortlisted for 2016 CBC Canada Reads
Beena and Sadhana are sisters who share a bond that could only have been 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 brew 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.
When we first meet the adult Beena, she is grappling with a fresh grief: Sadhana has died suddenly and strangely, her body lying undiscovered for a week before anyone realizes what has happened. Beena is left with a burden of guilt and an unsettled feeling about the circumstances of her sister's death, which she sets about to uncover. Her search stirs memories and opens wounds, threatening to undo the safe, orderly existence she has painstakingly created for herself and her son.
Heralded across Canada for the power and promise of her debut collection, Mother Superior, Nawaz proves with Bone and Bread that she is one of our most talented and unique storytellers.
With an elegance and fluidity of prose rare in first novels, Canadian writer Nawaz presents a masterful examination of the ties that bind people together and the quiet endurance required for sustaining those bonds through the countless travails of life and death.
Saleema Nawaz’s debut novel Bone and Bread sets poetic prose against the complex mythology of a small family... Nawaz’s wellcrafted narrative and vivid descriptions immerse the reader in Beena and Sadhana’s world.
…emotionally complex and nuanced…
Bone & Bread engages. Nawaz... is successful at building nuanced characters and reflecting the uneasy and untidy nature of family relationships.
Nawaz draws the core relationships with immaculately rendered delicacy; she gives the narrative time and space to unfold and evolve in a way that carries uncanny emotional punch.
Nawaz invites her reader into an intimate and devastating history, and holds you right until the end.
Bone and Bread is ambitious... Nawaz successfully portrays a strong yet tumultuous bond between the two sisters.
Bone and Bread... is an emotionally complex, riveting story. [It] is a poignant read, but it captivates because it brims with humanity. Nawaz hustles the reader along with vivid writing, scintillating characters, and the alluring element of mystery.
Saleema Nawaz returns with a big and beautiful novel... a first novel that rewards the reader's emotional involvement with a quietly tragic examination of the numerous solitudes in the life of one family.