ebook, 456 pages.
Read from February 22 to March 06, 2016.
Bam! 3 out of the 5 Canada Reads books and I still have a few weeks left March to finish the last two!
I love this book cover. I was immediately drawn to the book as soon as I saw it. The close up of the two girls with different skin tones with the blue background really makes the image pop. Kudos to the designer.
Beena and Sadhanna are sisters. They’re very different from each other and they don’t always get along but they share a bond that has been shaped over their peculiar upbringing and shared tragedy. After being raised by mixed parents, one of Indian descent and the other white, the girls were raised on a mix of spiritual and Muslim beliefs that they soon learned were different from the other children they knew. After numerous tragedies strike their family, they find themselves orphaned and under the care of their Sikh uncle who runs a bagel shop in Montreal’s Hasidic community of Mile End. As the girls get older, Beena finds herself pregnant at a young age while Sadhanna battles with anorexia.
As a reader, you first meet Beena as an adult who is fresh with grief over the death of Sadhanna. Beena must now uncover some of her sister’s secrets and learn more about the cause of her death, all while opening fresh wounds and the tumultuous memories of the past.
I wanted to like this book more. There were aspects about the book and certain sections that I found hard to put down but I didn’t feel like I got to know narrator, Beena, as much I should have and I was left longing and disappointed with the ending. While I didn’t always like Sadhanna, I felt like I knew her better as Beena took me through her very personal struggles with anorexia. Even with everything that Beena went through, I never felt that I got to know her as well because Sadhanna just felt more raw. Perhaps it was supposed to be that way, as Beena spent a large portion of her life taking care of her sister, regardless of what was going on, so perhaps her feelings are a bit muted.
I also thought that the book could have been at least 100 pages shorter. Don’t get me wrong, there were beautiful sections to this novel, but despite its length I was still left wanting at the end. I don’t want to give anything away, but I really dislike the choice that Beena made about one of her sister’s belongings at the very end of the book. Probably because I was more attached to Sadhanna and wanted to know more of what she had to say.
Sadhanna’s story is still worth reading though. This book gives a perfect rendition of what it is like to have a loved one be very unwell with a mental illness. The spite, the exhaustion and the constant watchfulness and worry that comes with caring for a loved with an illness like anorexia.
In regards to the Canada Reads theme, ‘starting over’, with the events that had happened to Beena she certainly had to start over in certain aspects of her life but she wasn’t all that dynamic of a character. In the end, she still kept her grudge against the father of her son and didn’t reconnect with her son as much as I would have expected. While Beena’s life had changed inexplicably with the death of Sadhanna, the novel didn’t feel like her story, it felt like Sadhanna’s. So while I enjoyed this book, out of the novels I’ve read so far, I would say that this one doesn’t fit the theme as well as the others so far.