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Mother Superior 

Saleema Nawaz

Mother Superior
Saleema Nawaz
(Freehand Books)
In its first year, newbie publisher Freehand Books has filled its mantle with a bunch of prizes. Now Saleema Nawaz has scored the Journey Prize, impressing three of my favourite writers, Lynn Coady, Heather O’Neill and Neil Smith, with “My Three Girls,” a story which appears in her debut collection, Mother Superior.

“My Three Girls” opens with the narrator recalling a typical family “picnic-pose photo” with her two sisters---except in this case, Maggie, the youngest, is stillborn from a birth defect, slumped in her car seat. Ultimately a story about how the ghosts of family tragedy never disappear, Nawaz’s confident voice and ease with writing about the body---of bellies, bleeding and mysterious illnesses---is reminiscent of a Barbara Gowdy or an updated Alice Munro.

Throughout seven stories and two novellas, similar themes emerge but with distinctive voices. In the captivating “Bloodlines,” Sikh sisters cope with the death of their father, as one grows big from pregnancy, while the other sheds weight until “her bones had turned brittle, and I imagined them hollowed out, changed into rolled tubes of parchment where we had written all of our secrets and repressed despair.” Definitely a late contender for the best of 2008.
Sue Carter Flinn
type: book

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