- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 6, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062244760
- ISBN-13: 978-0062244765
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,176 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Pearl That Broke Its Shell: A Novel Paperback – January 6, 2015
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*Starred Review* Hashimi’s first novel tells the story of two young Afghan women, separated by a century, who disguise themselves as boys in order to survive. In 2007, nine-year-old Rahima, the middle child among five daughters, becomes a bacha posh, a girl who dresses as a boy so that she can run to the market and escort her sisters when they leave the house. Rahima enjoys incredible freedoms as a boy, from attending school to roughhousing with children her age, but it all comes to an abrupt end when Abdul Khaliq, a vicious warlord, decides he wants her for his wife. Only 13 when she’s forced to marry Abdul Khaliq, Rahima draws her strength from her aunt’s tales of her ancestor Shekiba, who as a young girl was scarred by kitchen oil and was reviled by her extended family after the death of her parents and siblings. Shekiba eventually found unlikely refuge in the king’s palace in Kabul, dressing as a man to guard the king’s harem. Alternating between Rahima and Shekiba’s stories, Hashimi weaves together two equally engrossing stories in her epic, spellbinding debut. --Kristine Huntley --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
“Nadia Hashimi has written, first and foremost, a tender and beautiful family story. Her always engaging multigenerational tale is a portrait of Afghanistan in all of its perplexing, enigmatic glory, and a mirror into the still ongoing struggles of Afghan women.” (Khaled Hosseini, author of And the Mountains Echoed and The Kite Runner)
“A fascinating look at the unspoken lives of Afghani women, separated by generations and miles, yet achingly similar. This is a story to transport you and make you think.” (Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times bestselling author of Secret Daughter)
“Hashimi weaves together two equally engrossing stories in her epic, spellbinding debut.” (Booklist (starred review))
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That being said, I felt the novel was not as good as it could have been. There is too much telling, and not enough showing. It was hard for me to keep all of the characters straight, given the two different plot lines. It was longer than it needed to be. It could better be described as historical / social fiction than literary.
Still, the plot/s grabbed me enough to finish the book. I had read a lot about Afghanistan, and also about girls who had to act as boys in order to help their families, so some of the plot details were not new to me. The general despair of women is quite well depicted.
The prose is lovely and lyrical, the main storyteller is Rahima, the youngest of three sisters that were sold into marriage by their father when Rahima was just thirteen. Descriptive and emotive details give readers the insight into all of the confusion, fear, resentment and even obeisance to traditions that are centuries, if not millennia old. Rahima was the "son' of the family, the bacha posh, given freedoms that other women do not have, yet never allowing her to rise above her actual position and restrictions as a woman. With current and remembered events, a recurring thread from an unmarried aunt who tells the tale of their great-great grandmother a guard to the King's harem, and plenty of beauty centered on the vista,, the arts and poetry of the country, we see Rahima grow and expand her internal life and determination to be more than just the low bar set for the women of her country.
What remain constant and indefatigable are the women: every woman who is struggling to survive and adapt to a country where wars, power struggles, political upheaval and religious fanatics are part of the daily landscape, and bound to change repeatedly and without warning. This was an emotionally raucous ride, filled with highs and lows, fear and utter breath-holding as events are laid out to feed a reader's visual and emotional reactions in a way that is fulfilling and visceral, not overwhelming. In fact, the style and voice seem to encourage a sense of hope, tied to the hopes and dreams for different held by Rahima, and the pages almost turn themselves.
I had a difficult time believing that this was a debut novel from Nadia Hashimi: the writing is clear and evocative with information necessary to those unfamiliar with the traditions delineated without overburdening the text with explanations. The words flow beautifully and freely, and the ideas of gender inequality, the rich history and traditions of the Afghani people, and the struggle faced by its women are clearly presented and explained, leaving readers with a far better understanding and feel for the country that extends beyond the political rhetoric of the day.
I will always return to my own belief that well told fictionalized stories that show a culture, person or situation can be an invaluable asset to those who want a better understanding, or a unique perspective on another life and way of being. The Pearl that Broke it's Shell is one of those stories, managing to engage and enchant while all the while presenting a story rich in fact and tradition.
I received an eArc copy of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
I would have to force myself to put the book down to get some sleep because I always wanted to get one more chapter in.
I really liked how the story was told from 2 different perspectives... Shekiba and Rahima had such great stories to tell. It was engaging to see how the stories in a sense came full circle.
It's not a book that I would read again...but it is a book that stays with you....at least it has with me