Fiction/Short Stories, 2008
Freehand Books, trade pb, 287 p.
A prostitute takes shelter with a group of young anarchists. A sister goes missing, mailing a trail of encoded postcards from destinations across the globe. The daughters of a Montreal bagel-shop owner navigate the tricky terrain of being young, Sikh, and female, one growing larger while the other fades. A precocious child spies on her adoptive mother, trying to grasp the secret of her mother’s hidden obsession and of her own unexplained origins.These are the stories of mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, and their complicated relationships. Sometimes with a collection of stories by a single author, they can start to feel repetitive if read too closely one after the other. But even though these stories all pretty much deal with women and relationships, they were all different, each one engaging and complete, and I never felt I was reading the same thing over and over. Sure, there were one or two stories I didn’t care for quite as much, as is often the case with a book of short stories, but even in those ones I stopped sometimes to admire the writing or the very real emotions being portrayed.
The seven stories and two novellas in Mother Superior are a heady blend of misfits and mothers, of sisters and mysterious others. Nawaz traces the scars left by family secrets and sings the complex, captivating language of lust and of love.
My favourites were My Three Girls and The White Dress. The first is about sisters and loss and the past haunting the present. The latter story is about a young girl trying to understand her adoptive mother’s strange moods and sadness, and coming to realize why some people treat her so differently. I thought the author did a lovely job capturing the thoughts of a child in this one. The characters in all the stories came vividly to life and they all felt very realistic, making me care for them and think about them long after I’d read about these moments in their lives.
An impressive debut, these stories were very well crafted and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. Saleema Nawaz is currently working on a novel, and I very much look forward to reading more by her in the future.
Final verdict: Wonderful, touching stories by an author to watch.
Read an excerpt from 'My Three Girls'
Interview with Saleema Nawaz
Q&A with Saleema Nawaz
Review in Quill & Quire
Saleema Nawaz's blog
Thank you to Mini Book Expo and Freehand Books for the opportunity to read this book.
First sentence: (Mother Superior) Joan won't get an abortion.
My Rating: 4/5
(#29 for 2009, 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, What's in a Name Challenge (Relative), ARC Reading Challenge)