Beena and Sadhana are sisters who share a bond that could only have been shaped by the most unusual of childhoods — and by shared tragedy. Orphaned as teenagers, they have grown up under the exasperated watch of their Sikh uncle, who runs a bagel shop in Montreal’s Hasidic community of Mile End. Together, they try to make sense of the rich, confusing brew of values, rituals, and beliefs that form their inheritance. Yet as they grow towards adulthood, their paths begin to diverge.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”