For the first time ever, I have read at least one of the Canada Reads finalists BEFORE the competition even starts. Actually, I’ve read two.
I basically exclusively read CanLit at this point.
Today the competition starts. At some point, I will get caught up on what happened but in the meantime, let me add my voice to the flood of Canada Reads posts you’ve been seeing.
I talked about The Hero’s Walk recently – click here to get caught up.
The second book I read was Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz. I liked it a lot more than The Hero’s Walk, but again, I don’t think that’s the fault of The Hero’s Walk – there’s just something wrong with me.
Bone and Bread tells the story of sisters Beena and Sadhana. Sadhana has died recently, suddenly, and Beena and her teenage son, Quinn, are left to sort through the aftermath of her death. Beena tells us their story, of their unusual upbringing as the daughter of an Indian father and a white Irish mother, and then when each of their parents’ dies, at different times, of their life with their father’s brother, a man who is not equipped to handle two teenage girls in any way.
When Beena is 16 she gets pregnant. This is at the same time as Sadhana starts her years’ long battle with anorexia, a disease that sees her hospitalized more than once. As Beena learns to be a mother to Quinn, without her own mother to lean on, she and Sadhana enter into an uncomfortable relationship that satisfies no one.
This is a complex story of two young women trying to figure out their lives in the wake of a host of complications: the death of each of their parents, an unplanned pregnancy, a disapproving uncle, an all-encompassing illness. At times it felt like Beena and I were having coffee, like she was my friend telling me what was going on in her life. That’s how invested I was in this one.
Beena and Quinn are trying to come to terms with Sadhana’s passing, with the hole she left in both of their lives in different ways. Montreal is almost another character in this one as the setting of most of the story. The girls are born and grow up in Montreal, Sadhana stays when Beena moves to Ottawa with Quinn but now that it’s time for university, Quinn is heading back.
In terms of the Canada Reads theme of ‘Starting Over’ this one is easy. Beena and Sadhana are constantly starting over, forced to make new lives out of the ruins of the old ones. I felt like I’d been put through the wringer after reading this one. Emotionally, I was spent. I’m looking forward to cheering this one on through the debates.
Which book are you rooting for?