I am one book closer in my quest to read the 5 books from the Canada Reads 2016 short-list. Bone & Bread is the third Canada Reads book that I have read sharing the theme of starting over. This story describes the lives of two sisters who struggle with loss, tragedy, illness and relationship issues. They love each other deeply yet fail to communicate their feelings as they try to help each other. The setting of this novel transitions between familiar areas of Montreal and Ottawa.
After losing both their parents at a very young age, Beena and Sadhana continue to live above their families’ bagel shop with their Sikh Uncle as their guardian. The girls “stop bleeding” at the same time, one with pregnancy and the other due to anorexia and their lives are sent on a new trajectory. The oldest sister, Beena starts a relationship with Ravi, a bagel shop employee, ending up pregnant at age 16. The father takes off and Beena is left to care for her son, Quinn with the help of her sister, when she is well. Sadhana has her own struggles, being a perfectionist and spends time in and out of hospital due to her eating disorder.
The girl’s experiences impact their own relationships as they jointly care for Quinn and while Beena tries, in vane, to keep Sadhana healthy. In her efforts to ensure her sister is healthy, Beena begins policing her sister’s dietary intake which leads to resentments and a strained relationship. In frustration, Beena and Quinn move from their shared Montreal apartment to Ottawa but the two sisters continue to be challenged by words shared, words unspoken and events of the past that he never been resolved.
It was interesting to learn that these sister’s started off in a short-story before the author expanded her characters into her first novel. Nawaz spent time at the Banff centre transitioning this story into the novel that is being defended by activist Farah Mohamed. She drew on her experience living in Montreal and the olfactory memories of the smells of bagels baking at the Fairmount Bagel.
From the author’s blog I have learned that she enjoys visiting book clubs (in Montreal) and wish that she was closer as my book club would LOVE to meet her!! We are all choosing a book (or some of us reading all 5) to discuss at our next meeting and I am envious of those who have had the privilege to learn more about the characters and writing process of Bone and Bread.