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Bone and Bread [Paperback]

Saleema Nawaz
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 22.95
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Book Description

March 30 2013

Winner of the Quebec Writers' Federation Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction.

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.


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Review

Bone & Bread engages. Nawaz... is successful at building nuanced characters and reflecting the uneasy and untidy nature of family relationships. (Nadia Kidwai Winnipeg Free Press 2013-03-30)

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. (Ian McGillis Montreal Gazette 2013-03-22)

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. (Jennifer Hunter Toronto Star 2013-03-28)

Bone and Bread is ambitious... Nawaz successfully portrays a strong yet tumultuous bond between the two sisters. (Heather Leighton Globe and Mail 2013-03-29)

Nawaz invites her reader into an intimate and devastating history, and holds you right until the end. (Emily M. Keeler National Post 2013-03-28)

... absorbing... (Athena McKenzie Zoomer 2013-03-27)

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. (Maisonneuve 2013-04-01)

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. (Kamal Al-Solaylee Quill & Quire 2013-05-01)

…emotionally complex and nuanced… (Alexis Kienlen Alberta Daily Herald Tribune 2013-06-20)

About the Author

Saleema Nawaz is the author of the short story collection Mother Superior and winner of the prestigious Writers' Trust of Canada / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, she currently lives in Montreal, Quebec.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Read Dec 1 2013
Format:Paperback
Remarkable. In the currents of Canadian literature, there are few writers who can meld the longing of the human soul with a story so believable and engaging as Saleema Nawaz has in her debut novel Bone and Bread. Her superb writing lures you first with grief and absence and then seduces you by painting the mundane on a canvas of life’s small absurdities.

Beena and Sadhana Singh are unlikely heroines. Their parents, a free-thinking Sikh pastry cook turned Jewish bagel shop owner and an Irish mother who teaches yoga and dabbles in Eastern astrology, induct their children into a world of non-conventionalism, self-dependence and resilience. Two years apart in age, the two girls are inseparable. The death first of their father and then of their mother leave the sisters adrift in a world where their only relative is “Uncle,” their father’s younger tradition-bound brother. The lifelong bachelor is incapable of understanding the emotional needs of his nieces, and tries unsuccessfully to inculcate them with old world values and teach them how to be “good girls.” At sixteen, Beena throws herself into her first love, with eighteen-year-old Ravi Pattel, a ‘bagel boy’ in the family business in Montreal’s multi-cultural neighbourhood of Mile End. When Beena becomes pregnant, Ravi slips away, abetted by his upper class Hindu parents. Even Uncle’s attempt to bribe Ravi’s family with a sizable dowry fails to rescue Beena from single-motherhood. While Beena drops out of school and prepares herself for the challenges of being a teenaged parent, Sadhana, unable to overcome the loss of her mother, descends into life-threatening anorexia.

Ironically, both sisters find themselves in the same hospital the day that Beena’s son, Quinn, is born.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A tad dull Oct. 27 2013
Format:Paperback
I'm afraid to say I was rather bored while reading this book. Not so much that I didn't finish it, but I was a bit frustrated by how ordinary so much of it was. For instance, the first quarter of the book deals heavily with the childhood of two sisters: Beena (the narrator) and Sadhana. We get many details of their relationship, games they used to play, impressions of their city, their parents, and so on. All of it was, to me, quite unremarkable. A fire at their apartment seems designed to inject a bit of action yet it serves no real purpose. Even sudden deaths in the family come and go with little fanfare; we don't see the real impact of these events until later. A good example of the book's slow pace: three-quarters of the way through there is a chapter in which Beena, her son, and her boyfriend go for a hike. That's it. That's all that happens in the whole chapter. I get that she uses the hike to start to build a dynamic between Beena's son and her boyfriend. But this late into the book I would expect stakes to be raised, tension increased. For god's sake, put something on the line. All we get is: Her son doesn't care for her boyfriend, but he's starting to come around.

As the story progresses into their teenage years it gets a bit more interesting as we see the sisters diverge sharply. Which brings me to another issue: neither sister is sympathetic. Sadhana is self-centred and Beena stubborn to the point where you want to reach into the book and smack her. I have no issue with flawed protagonists, but they should be lovable in spite of, or even because of, their flaws. Instead Beena makes one bad decision after another, seemingly unwilling to grow up and face responsibility for anything.
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4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... Sept. 12 2013
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Transitioning from short story writer to novelist, Saleema Nawaz has produced an ambitious, beautiful debut set in Montreal and Ottawa. "Bone and Bread" centres on Beena and Sadhana, two sisters from a previously published short story, and explores the theme of motherhood as both a blessing and an affliction.

The novel opens with news of Sadhana's sudden death. Beena, taking on the role of narrator and memoirist, depicts the sisters' physical and psychic connections while also reconstructing the family's past and her own present. She describes her childhood, living in a small apartment above their Sikh father's bagel shop in the heart of Montreal's Jewish community and ultimately dealing with the death of both her parents. When Sadhana's eating disorder takes over her life and Beena becomes pregnant at 16, the sisters' lives diverge into virtual estrangement. As Nawaz writes through Beena, she evokes memories with verve, attacking them with precision and often anger.

Despite an awkward sub-theme of racial politics, "Bone and Bread" delivers a subtle, astute study of sibling rivalry that grasps readers' attention and provokes thought about the solitudes of family life.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointing May 20 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was easy to read, and I enjoyed it to a point. However, I felt the author gave a very superficial treatment to a lot of the subject matter she introduced. I think if she had reduced the number of themes she introduced, and explored the remaining ones in some detail, it would have been a lot more satisfying. I got the impression she was trying to write about subjects she really didn't know anything about, so just glossed over them quickly. Also there's this supposed big mystery about the sister (I won't spoil the plot by revealing details), but the sister wasn't a nice person so I didn't really care about her or what had happened. I read the book for a book club, and won't be buying anything more of hers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bone and Bread July 1 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Hard to believe that a young woman wrote such a great novel with such depth and insight. Living in Montreal, it was fun to recognize all the areas where certain activities took place. This was only a small part that added to the realism of the book. This story can take place anywhere.The characters were entirely believable. I had the feeling that I have met these people in my life ! Although told from the perspective of one sister, the main
character was the other sister. Both were complex personalities. One sister was portrayed in detail from the sister telling the story from past experiences whereas the storyteller's personality developed as she told the story. I thought there was a great deal of symbolism beginning with title of the book and further religious symbolism continuing throughout the book. It is not a fast read but that is what makes this book stand out. The more one reads, the more one gets invested in the characters and the more indelible they become. This is a book that I will always remember and I would highly recommend it. I look forward to reading other works by the same author.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautifully felt story Aug. 13 2013
By kgkbooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
of two orphaned sisters who both suffer as a result of one's eating disorder. Daughters of a bagel bakery owner and his white Canadian wife, the daughters each suffer the loss of their parents in a singular way. Nothing about it felt false, nothing too saccharine...perfect pitch.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Winner! April 21 2013
By Patterson Webster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This story of two sisters and how they come to terms with their world is engrossing from start to finish. Montreal is depicted affectionately with its warts and beauty spots. The writing is lively and full of details that tell a complex story. Definitely worth reading.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read June 14 2014
By Brenda King - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is so interestingly written. A real look at relationships between daughters and mothers, and sisters. I really wanted it to have a happy ending but it is a study and look at a real life and all the people that impact the sister's lives. The constant threat of an eating disorder and depression and how it affects them all is really enlightening. It was a good read .
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Read Dec 1 2013
By Sean Malcolm - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Remarkable. In the currents of Canadian literature, there are few writers who can meld the longing of the human soul with a story so believable and engaging as Saleema Nawaz has in her debut novel Bone and Bread. Her superb writing lures you first with grief and absence and then seduces you by painting the mundane on a canvas of life’s small absurdities.

Beena and Sadhana Singh are unlikely heroines. Their parents, a free-thinking Sikh pastry cook turned Jewish bagel shop owner and an Irish mother who teaches yoga and dabbles in Eastern astrology, induct their children into a world of non-conventionalism, self-dependence and resilience. Two years apart in age, the two girls are inseparable. The death first of their father and then of their mother leave the sisters adrift in a world where their only relative is “Uncle,” their father’s younger tradition-bound brother. The lifelong bachelor is incapable of understanding the emotional needs of his nieces, and tries unsuccessfully to inculcate them with old world values and teach them how to be “good girls.” At sixteen, Beena throws herself into her first love, with eighteen-year-old Ravi Pattel, a ‘bagel boy’ in the family business in Montreal’s multi-cultural neighbourhood of Mile End. When Beena becomes pregnant, Ravi slips away, abetted by his upper class Hindu parents. Even Uncle’s attempt to bribe Ravi’s family with a sizable dowry fails to rescue Beena from single-motherhood. While Beena drops out of school and prepares herself for the challenges of being a teenaged parent, Sadhana, unable to overcome the loss of her mother, descends into life-threatening anorexia.

Ironically, both sisters find themselves in the same hospital the day that Beena’s son, Quinn, is born. His existence fills a void in the two sisters’ lives and restores their bond to each other. Sadhana excels on Montreal’s vibrant theatre and art scene, attracts to her numerous lovers and falls and recovers from serious bouts of anorexia. Beena plods along, raises her son, moves to Ottawa to find work as a free-lance editor, and her love life is occasionally punctuated by suitors who invariably fade away, leaving behind only disappointment. The love of the two sisters for Quinn is the glue that holds them together until Sadhana’s death under unexplained circumstances. Haunted by the thought that she may have contributed to her sister’s death, Beena returns to Montreal to piece together the last secretive weeks of Sadhana’s life. Quinn, now 18, accompanies his mother to Montreal, but on a quest of his own—one that will revive painful memories.

Saleema Nawaz's Bone and Bread won on November 19, 2013 the prestigious Paragraphe – Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. She will read on December 8, 2013 at the Magical Evening with Canadian Authors in Montreal (Restaurant Souvenirs d’Indochine, 243 Avenue du Mont-Royal Ouest – 7 pm).

This review was also published in the Capital Literary Review in Ottawa.
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