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.
Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?
This book is a fantastic read and I loved it from start to finish.
Part of the reason for this is the authors clever use of moving backwards and forwards in telling the two stories of Rahima and Shekiba illustrating the similarities of these two women even though they are separated by three generations.
I had to keep reminding myself that Rahima's story is set fairly recently ( 2007) as the culture for these two women had not progressed from one to the other. It is a shocking story of abuse and oppression experienced by women in a society which is dictated by men, tradition and superstition.
The prose in this book is beautifully constructed and Ms Hashmini is an intelligent writer who can bring her book alive with her placement of words. She writes sensitively and allows the reader to understand for themselves the society in which these women live.
There are very few books that make me cry but I would challenge anyone who reads this book not to feel deeply moved by the plight of Rahima and Shekiba. It is a heartbreaking read but ultimately is inspiring and edifying.
This book is definitely one of the best I have read this year and look forward to reading more from this author in 2016.
Publisher: William Morrow
Price (today at Amazon): Papaerback £8.99 - Kindle £5.99
About the Author:
Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. Her mother, granddaughter of a notable Afghan poet, traveled to Europe to obtain a Master’s degree in civil engineering and her father came to the United States, where he worked hard to fulfill his American dream and build a new, brighter life for his immediate and extended family. Nadia was fortunate to be surrounded by a large family of aunts, uncles and cousins, keeping the Afghan culture an integral part of their daily lives.
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is her debut novel and was released in 2014. Her second novel, When The Moon Is Low, followed in 2015 and chronicled the perilous journey of an Afghan family as they fled Taliban-controlled Kabul and fell into the dark world of Europe's undocumented.
She and her husband are the beaming parents of four curious, rock star children, two goldfish and a territorial African Grey parrot.