Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review: "The Pearl that Broke Its Shell" by Nadia Hashimi

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell Nadia Hashimi
Published: May 6, 2014
ISBN: 0062244752
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Highly Recommended

In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.

But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

My Thoughts:
Sometimes, I really love it when I'm wrong.  I went into this book expecting not to like it.  I was looking for something light, which this book is not, and I had been reading--and was sick of--dual narrative books, which this book is.

Let me address the dual-narrative issue first.  It can, and is often, done badly.  However, if someone wants to see how it should be done, they need to read this book.  Hashimi switches between the narratives so skillfully that I just can't believe that this is her debut book.  There is a reason for the dual narrative--Rahima is told the story of her great-great-grandmother (not her great-aunt, as is indicated in the summary) by her aunt as a way for her to understand and survive her own life.  The transitions between the two stories are well-planned and are not jarring as many such transitions in other books are.

This is really a heartbreaking story on so many fronts.  I don't think it will come as a shock to anyone that Afghanistan is a hard place for women, but the characters in this book face especially difficult circumstances.   Rahima is essentially sold by her drug-addicted father to a warlord in marriage.  She had previously spent time as a bacha posh--a pre-pubescent girl who dresses and lives as a boy--and, through that, had a taste of freedom that she would never experience as a female.  Her ancestor, Shekiba, was scarred as a child and therefore an outcast to both her extended family and her society.  

Yet, these two women are testaments to personal strength and perseverance.  I don't want to go too far into detail because I really feel that this is a book that needs to be read widely, but I will say that, despite the horrors depicted in this book, the reader will feel uplifted once they finish.

Again, I'm just in awe that this is Nadia Hashimi's first novel.  It is so compelling and so well-written that one would think that she had been writing books for years.  Although this is a long book, it ended up being a fairly quick read for me as I just couldn't put it down!  This is a book that I would recommend to everyone from my mother to a stranger on the street.  Go it!

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

About the Author:
Nadia Hashimi’s parents left Afghanistan in the 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. In 2002, Hashimi visited Afghanistan for the first time. She lives with her family in suburban Washington, D.C., where she works as a pediatrician.

Find out more about Nadia at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

For more thoughts on this book, please visit some of the other stops on the book tour (link goes to the front blog page, not the specific review):

Tuesday, May 6th: Doing Dewey
Wednesday, May 7th: The Gilmore Guide to Books
Thursday, May 8th: Lit and Life
Friday, May 9th: Books in the Burbs
Monday, May 12th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, May 12th: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, May 13th: Drey’s Library
Wednesday, May 14th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Wednesday, May 21st: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, May 22nd: Time 2 Read

Monday, May 26th: BoundbyWords

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