Excerpt from The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Bones of Grace

by Tahmima Anam

The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam X
The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2016, 432 pages
    Jun 2017, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Claire McAlpine

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Print Excerpt

Without really knowing, we divine; our life has a sister ship, following quite another route. While the sun blazes behind the islands.
The Blue House, Thomas Transtromer

I saw you today, Elijah. You were crossing the road. There is a building on the corner of Mass Ave and Harvard Street that looks like a miniature version of the Flatiron Building in New York. You had your back to the building, and when the little white man began to blink, you stepped off the sidewalk and onto the street – that's when I saw you. You made a little gesture with your hand that made me think you had seen me too, that you were waving, but it was a small motion of your wrist that meant nothing – you were just bruising the cold November air, and before you caught my eye, I bolted.

I knew it would only be a matter of time before we ran into each other. Cambridge is a small town and the orbits are modest. I've been back three months, and every day I've swept the corners of my vision, hoping and not hoping, as the warm days turned to ice, that it might be you in that charcoal coat, your legs in that pair of loose- fitting trousers. Your voice ordering the coffee before mine.

Diana has brought me back. She is here – or, at least, a very small part of her is here – in my hand. Her ankle bone is paler and lighter than I had imagined – time has robbed it of its weight – but her presence is nothing short of a miracle, here in this lab, in this town where my dreaming of her and my dreaming of you began. When we left her behind in Dera Bugti, I never thought I would see her again. I thought the mystery of the walking whale would remain in the ground forever, one of the secrets we were never meant to unearth. But earlier this year I received a message, written in Urdu and translated, reluctantly, by my mother:

Dear Miss Zubaida Haque,

Here is a gift from our departed friend. I do not understand why a man would give his life for such a thing, but perhaps you will. He got a letter out, asking me to recover his treasure and send it to you.
I have no choice but to dispatch my duty to a brother and comrade. We scoured the desert for your Diana, and now I am sending her to you, piece by piece. I do not know what these bones mean, but if you are reading this, you will know that our friend had a parting wish, and that I have endeavoured to fulfil it.

I didn't want to believe the message was real – after years of silence, could it be that Zamzam was helping to finish what we had started? But there was no other explanation, no other possible reason for this stranger's message, and he had used her name, Diana. I replied, listing the department's details, offering assistance to cover the transportation costs, the formalities that would have to be completed in order for ancient fossils to cross borders. Then I boarded a plane, I came here, and I waited.

When the box arrived, it was wrapped in several layers of duct tape, and inside, within folds of newspaper, encased in a layer of red matrix, was Diana's double-hinged ankle. I closed my fingers around the padding and felt the sting of tears in my eyes. I knew immediately that this wasn't just the fulfilment of a dream I have so long desired yet had taught myself to renounce; it was also a way for me to make a final plea for you. Diana is the reason I left this town, and Diana is why I have returned. I think of her as a spirit of comings and goings, a beacon that leads me across continents and through time. I live in hope that she will lead me back to you.

I suppose I must have been composing this story in my head for some time, but as I held Diana's bone in my hand that day, a flood of words came to my mind, and I rushed home and wrote them down. I have been living in a state of waiting, Elijah, for this moment, this opportunity for reckoning, and Zamzam, from beyond his grave, has granted me my wish. Diana is here, and I have seen you, and now I can take account of the whole thing – not just of you, the great love of my life, and not just of Ambulocetus, but also of Anwar, the man who led me to my mother, and of Grace, the ship that was ground to dust before our eyes. There is a whale, a woman who gave up her child, a piano, and a man who searched so long and hard for his beloved that he found me. But you have interrupted me too soon. I am not finished yet, and until I do there will be no way for us to wend our way back together.

Excerpted from The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam. Copyright © 2016 by Tahmima Anam. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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