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Bone and Bread

by Saleema Nawaz

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12412183,353 (3.79)28
When sisters Beena and Sadhana are orphaned as teenagers and sent to live with their Sikh uncle in Montreal's Hasidic community, their lives take divergent courses as they deal with their grief in different ways.

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I loved this book in many ways. It tells the story of a woman from Pakistan and her family. Her mother was a left-wing, new-age yoga teacher and her father was a baker from Pakistan. They ran a bagel bakery in downtown Montreal and lived above the bakery. She and her sister had a close relationship but they shared some difficulties when their father died, their mother died and the older sister became pregnant at age 16. There was so much interesting character development in this story. I would reread this book ( )
  CarolBurrows | May 23, 2020 |
Compelling and beautifully written. Nawaz accomplishes a tremendous feat by making her difficult and controlling main character's internal voice so realistic, and so reasonable, that she is constantly surprised to find out how negatively (some) other people see her.

Two sisters, having grown up amidst constant loss and change, are alternately suffocatingly close and unbearably distant over the course of this story. Both are fully realized and well-rounded characters struggling to live happy lives. The dialogue is extraordinary--so human it seemed it must have been recorded from real-life conversations. I couldn't put it down. ( )
  andrea_mcd | Mar 10, 2020 |
This was a tough book to read. The story is told in flashbacks and Sadhana, one of the main characters has died. The main characters, Sadhana and Beena are sisters with the same birthdate, but born 2 years apart. Their parents have died while they are still young so they were raised by their uncle, who really did not know what to do with them. He ran their father's bagel shop. The story follows Sahana and Beena while they are growing up in Montreal and then when Beena and her son Quinn move to Ottawa. The illnesses and demons this family deal with are heartbreaking. When Beena eventually finds out what happened to Sadhana at the end of her life, she is devastated. The ending is a culmination of what Sadhana, Quinn and Beena have been working toward throughout the book. It is a family drama that is extremely melancholy. The writing is wonderful and the story is well told. A wonderful debut novel with a lot of issues that are relevant today. ( )
  Carlathelibrarian | Feb 5, 2019 |
Bone & Bread is a novel about two sisters. The story is told from the main character Beena’s perspective as an adult. Her mother, father, and most recently her younger sister Sahana has passed leaving only her,her son Quinn, and uncle as her last living relatives. Beena is still reeling over the loss of her younger sister and so is her son (since they were very close), their house has an emptiness to it even though Sadhana never lived at their residence.

The book alternates in the present and past as Beena finds herself revisiting old memories. The time differences were a bit jarring at first when the story starts out, but over the course of a couple of chapters it reads a lot smoother. Sadhana is the more outspoken sister out of the two. She’s very opinionated and outgoing unlike her sister Beena who tends to be quieter and keeps to her self. These stark differences helps to cement their characters and readers see how over time how their clashing personalities, start to put a strain on their relationship as well as certain events.

I enjoyed reading the backstories and the characters feel developed though most of the story takes place in the past. It’s engrossing, and I thought it was very interesting how the author explores the family dynamic and the transition of the sisters lives due to death or life events. On top of the family dynamic, Nalwaz also opens up a powerful discussion on topics such as race separatism, religion, immigration, and mental illness. Instead of taking on so many topics, I wish she had focused on just a few as it felt like she was trying to tackle too much in one story.

While I liked this novel, it was a little too slow-moving for my tastes. Plus the story tended to drag at times. Overall, I still recommend this novel if you like slower-paced, family-centered stories.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair an honest review. ( )
  Rlmoulde | Nov 25, 2017 |
Set mostly in Montreal, this novel tells the story of two sisters, Beena and Sadhana, who lose their (Sikh) father when they are infants and then their (hippie Irish American) mother when they are young teenagers. They are then raised by their uncle, still in the apartment above the family bagel shop. At 16 Beena becomes pregnant and Sadhana is hospitalized with anorexia for the first time.

At the beginning of the book we learn that Sadhana has just died and Beena and her son Quinn, now living in Ottawa, are struggling to come to terms with this. Each chapter is partly in the present of the need to clear out Sadhana's flat and Quinn's desire to meet his father, and partly describes the girls' childhood and teenage years and so on up to the present.

I have mixed feelings about this story. I found it generally interesting, although it was longer than it needed to be and dragged in the middle. Beena was a very passive, closed-off character, who seemed to believe people were unknowable and hard to get close to, but it seemed to me that she avoided ever being direct or straightforward with anyone. Her relationship with Sadhana was well-described and believable; the love and the hate and the inter-connectedness. On the other hand, the refugee story seemed tacked-on to make the story more relevant or something; I would have been more interested in hearing about the sisters' experiences of being partly Sikh.

Sad and well-written, but I wouldn't read it again. ( )
  pgchuis | Apr 12, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Bone & Bread is ambitious with easily enough material for two novels. Nawaz successfully portrays a strong yet tumultuous bond between the two sisters, and the author is equally adept at showing the extreme demands of caring for a loved one with anorexia.

However, the economy of words and razor-sharp prose of Mother Superior are not to be found in this novel.....Then there is the issue of the baffling similes and metaphors, leaving the reader momentarily distracted by what exactly is being evoked....However, even these problems could have been overlooked if the author had chosen to show rather than tell so much of the story. The result is language that prevents the reader from experiencing the action first-hand......While I was not immediately aware of the problems in Bread & Bone, I eventually realized that I was putting the book down every few pages to catch my breath and make better sense of it. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to pick it up again.
While Bone and Bread is gracefully plotted and occasions myriad interesting questions into the nature of the development of any one personality, Nawaz very occasionally missteps in her prose. Some sentences fail to settle into their intended rhythms, and instead seem littered through with claustrophobic clauses....At other times, Nawaz’s use of language is top-notch, evoking thoughts and feelings with a piercing clarity....And so this novel, like the family it depicts, is flawed and tragic, but also tender and loving. Nawaz invites her reader into an intimate and devastating history, and holds you right until the end.
Bone and Bread, the first novel by Montreal writer Saleema Nawaz, is an emotionally complex, riveting story. ...Bone and Bread 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.....Nawaz is able to bind these layers into a cozy blanket that envelops the reader with the warmth of her characters and the flow of her story. Beena concludes at the end of the novel that “the work of getting closer to the ones you love, of loving harder, is the work of a whole life.” The wisdom of such a young novelist is staggering.
Five years after Mother Superior, her breakthrough collection of short stories, Saleema Nawaz returns with a big and beautiful novel set in Montreal and Ottawa ... offering one of the subtlest and most psychologically astute studies of sibling rivalry in recent Canadian fiction... It’s a minor flaw in 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.
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When sisters Beena and Sadhana are orphaned as teenagers and sent to live with their Sikh uncle in Montreal's Hasidic community, their lives take divergent courses as they deal with their grief in different ways.

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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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