The Most Precious Substance on Earth

The Most Precious Substance on Earth

Shashi Bhat (CA)

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2022 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction Shortlist

A humorous coming-of-age novel-in-stories and a sharp-edged look at how silence can shape a life, from the winner of the Journey Prize. A Chatelaine Summer Reads pick.

“But wait, what happened to the girl?”
   “I don’t know,” I say. I don’t tell him that what will happen to her is what happens to every girl.

Bright, hilarious, and sensitive fourteen-year-old Nina doesn’t say anything when her best friend begins to pull away, or when her crush on her English teacher intensifies. She doesn’t say anything when her mother tries to match her up with local Halifax Indian boys unfamiliar with her Saved by the Bell references, or when her worried father starts reciting Hindu prayers outside her bedroom door. (“How can your dad be happy when his only daughter is unsettled?”) 

And she won’t speak of the incident in high school that changes the course of her life. 

The Most Precious Substance on Earth tells stories of Nina’s life from the nineties to present day, when she returns to the classroom as a high school teacher with a haunting secret. And whether she’s pushing herself to deliver speeches at Toastmasters meetings, struggling through her MFA program, enduring the indignities of online dating, or wrestling with how to best guide her students, she will discover that the past is never far behind her.

Darkly funny, deeply moving, unsettling, and at times even shocking, Shashi Bhat’s irresistible novel-in-stories examines the fraught relationships between those who take and those who have something taken. The Most Precious Substance on Earth is a sharp-edged and devastating look at how women are conditioned to hide their trauma and suppress their fear, loneliness, and anger, and an unforgettable portrait of how silence can shape a life.

Product details

ISBN-13: 9780771094965

Number of pages: 272

Format: Paperback / softback Trade paperback (US)

Imprint: McClelland & Stewart

English en