An overload of material—and pages—obscures the sincere heart of this earnest story.


Two sisters—close when they were children but divided by pain and problems as they grew into adulthood—have struggled ceaselessly with the bonds that connect them.

There’s no shortage of issues in Canadian writer Nawaz’s (Mother Superior, 2008) first full-length work of fiction. Race, illegal immigration, anorexia, and single parenting are just some of the lesser tributaries swelling the main storytelling flow, devoted to the complicated relationship between sisters Beena and Sadhana Singh. Born of a Punjabi Sikh father and an Irish-born American mother, the girls live over the family business—a bagel shop—in Montreal. Their father’s sudden death is followed by an arson attack on the building that engenders anxiety issues in younger sister Sadhana. Then their mother dies as the result of a celebratory meal prepared by the girls. Now, under the not-so-tender care of an uncle, the teenagers begin to go off the rails: 14-year-old Sadhana develops a life-threatening eating disorder while Beena, at 16, gets pregnant. Packed full of both content and introspective narration, the novel is ponderous and often downbeat, shuttling back and forth between the girls’ pasts and Beena’s present as she copes with the aftermath of Sadhana’s death, announced on the first page, for which her son, Quinn, blames her. As Beena sets about the sad business of sorting through her sister’s possessions, additional plot points emerge involving Quinn, the father he’s never known, and the fight to protect an immigrant family Sadhana was helping. Nawaz brings serious commitment to her ambitiously large tale, but its sluggishness and cast of cool characters work against the reader’s involvement, while the prose, often awkwardly intense—“More and more, regret has simply become the shadow I would cast if I stood in the sun”—sometimes makes matters worse.

An overload of material—and pages—obscures the sincere heart of this earnest story.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77089-009-1

Page Count: 456

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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