“Living up to the hype, and then some. Saleema Nawaz’s accomplished first novel, Bone & Bread, is worthy of all its pre-release buzz…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. She also invests the novel with a vivid sense of place: Many sections are as Mile End-specific as any fiction since early Mordecai Richler, though the neighbourhood has changed a lot since Duddy Kravitz ran its streets. Bone & Bread fulfils the promise of Nawaz’s acclaimed story collection debut, Mother Superior, and then some. It is one of the events of the year on the Canadian fiction scene.”
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 & Bread that she is one of our most talented and unique storytellers.
“Saleema Nawaz captures the complicated bond of sisters like no other writer I’ve read. Her characters feel like real people, flawed and vulnerable and loving. This is a soulful, absorbing novel about identity, memory, and the resilience of family.”
-Alix Ohlin, author of Inside
“Nawaz must stay up all night sharpening her quills and flinging practice shots at her story’s bull’s-eye. How else to account for language sliced with such beautiful discernment and precision?”
-Kathleen Winter, author of Annabel
“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 … Bone and Bread is a poignant read, but it captivates because it brims with humanity…The wisdom of such a young novelist is staggering.”
“[T]his 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.”
House of Anansi, world, March 2013
Longlisted for CBC Canada Reads 2016
Winner of the 2013 Quebec Writers’ Federation Literary Award, Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction
Longlisted for CBC Canada Reads 2015
Amazon.ca Top 25 Books of 2013