Bone and Bread

Bone and BreadIn a book whose title has so many symbolic meanings, it is hard to express how I felt about this story when I read the last page.  I really loved the writing and appreciated the relationship between sisters Beena and Sadhana but I wish the conclusion had some finality.  Maybe it does in some way—however, it left me angry with Beena.
I suppose it is fitting that anger and sorrow are the main emotions felt throughout the novel.  It deals with many subjects which can stir up these feelings: politics, complicated family relationships, anorexia and grief.  At the same time, you get a sense of culture weaved into the plot, which somehow manages to invite prejudice moments too.
The Singh sisters would have been twins, if it weren’t for the discrepancy of their birth year.  As Beena is the older sibling, Sadhana is always being watched for her actions—-so it is no surprise that when Sadhana becomes anorexic, her every move is observed like a hawk.  While Beena gains more weight because of an unexpected pregnancy, Sadhana starts withering away to skin and bones.  These life changes happen the year after they lose their mother and are taken under the wing of their Sikh uncle, who is now the owner of the bagel shop, which they live on top of because their deceased father previously owned it.  They are left without parents and no sense of direction.
The story opens with Beena in the present, recollecting memories of the past because she must go back to Montreal after she finds out that Sadhana has died of a heart attack at 32.  Quinn, Beena’s now 18 year-old son, is living with his mom and acting very distant with her.  As the chapters move along in Beena’s voice, we find out about her complicated relationship with her sister and also all her other ties to boyfriends or lovers (one of whom is the father of Quinn).
As the narrative goes back and forth between past and present, we discover the complex personalities of most of the characters and learn certain answers to the mysterious person Sadhana was.  We also see how Beena is trying to take her life back by dating a younger man and closing the gap between her and her detached son.  Because the last words spoken to one another were harsh, Beena needs to know if Sadhana had forgiven her before she died.  Supposedly, the answers lie in Sadhana’s diary, which Beena has difficulty finding in the now vacated apartment.
I immediately got sucked into the book because of the writing style and the storyline kept my attention till the very end.  Even though I would have wanted a more satisfying finish to Beena’s tale, I imagine things eventually right themselves in a fashion.  Life doesn’t always have clear solutions either and if I must describe this novel with only one word (besides haunting), it would be: real.  What is your opinion?

If you are a member of the library, we have this title currently in Hard copy, as an e-book and as a book club kit.  This may or may not change in the future.  Please check the catalogue frequently for an update of formats.

If you liked this novel by Nawaz, you may be interested to read her collection of short stories called, Mother Superior.

To read reviews on Bone & Bread, please click on the links below.
From The National Post

From The Globe and Mail

For information about Saleema Nawaz, click here.

Discussion Questions

Here are two questions to start off the discussion:

-What role do secrets play in Beena and Sadhana’s lives?

-How does Bone and Bread explore the issue of racism?

Looking for the rest of the questions to continue a thought-provoking debate?  Click here to access them from the publisher.

Interesting Tidbit
The topic that interested me the most, raised awareness, provoked questions and was well researched was, of course, anorexia and how a person lives with it or how it affects loved ones around them.  Scenes with Sadhana’s struggle seem so personal and real that I wanted to know more and look into how the victims of this horrible illness can be helped.  For more information on anorexia and other eating disorders, click here.

This book reminded me of …
In all honesty, I have not read anything like this that made me think of another book.  Sure, I have read about sisterhood and novels with complicated family issues set in Montreal (like Nancy Richler’s The Imposter Bride), but I cannot relate this story to anything else yet.  Perhaps when I read My October by Claire Holden Rothman, I will see some similarities with setting and character relationships.

Favorite quote from book:
This month, it was hard to choose.  Nawaz had many beautiful sentences which conjured up interesting images and there were wonderful descriptive metaphors or analogies, making the story more poetic.  I chose two quotes.

“… my relationship with Uncle has shifted, grown a new layer of sediment, like a softer sand washed back onto shore.  Things moving, slipping away underfoot, some replaced altogether.  Contempt on both sides giving way bit by bit to respect.” (p.10)

“Growing up seemed to mean that the only kind of pretending that was still safe was pretending we could do without it.” (p. 60)

Most ironic moment in the story:
When Beena and Sadhana cook chicken for their vegetarian mother, with fatal consequences. (p. 77)

Next month’s title:
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

Take the poll!

 

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