The Most Precious Substance on Earth
"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.
Nina, a bright, hilarious, and sensitive 14-year-old, 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.
On her tumultuous path from nineties high school student to present-day high school teacher, Nina will learn difficult truths about existing as a woman in the world. 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, at times unsettling and even shocking, Shashi Bhat's irresistible novel examines the fraught relationships between those who take and those who have something taken. Rich with wry humour and sharp-edged insight, The Most Precious Substance on Earth is an unforgettable portrait of how silence can shape a life. (From McClelland & Stewart)
The Most Precious Substance on Earth is available in August 2021.
Shashi Bhat is a writer who lives in New Westminster, B.C. She is also the author of the novel The Family Took Shape.
From the book
I started reading Beowulf about a week ago, not because it was on the syllabus, but because I am in love with my English teacher. I would read anything for him. The book's cover is stark and greyscale, a black background with the title in white block letters. Below the title is the outline of a man, but just his top half — like a passport photo, except the outline is filled with silver chainmail. I keep turning back to this picture on the cover and wondering how they made it look three-dimensional, half expecting the pattern of metal to bulge into discernable features, to turn into a man's face.
From The Most Precious Substance on Earth by Shashi Bhat ©2021. Published by McClelland & Stewart.