From the cover :
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-great grandmother, 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?
My thoughts :
I enjoy a novel that transports me across continents to another time and place and allows me to feel and empathize with the people in a situation so varied from my own. The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi is successful at bringing to life the struggles of women in Afghanistan, a land so far removed yet brought to our attention by the recent history and the coverage in the news. Hashimi's novel gives a human face to the news reports of the politics and wars. It opens the reader's eyes to the suffering and resilience of people.
By telling both the modern story of Rahima and the earlier story of her ancestor Shekiba, Hashimi is able to tell both histories of the country. Separated by a hundred years, their stories are not that different. Both women lived at a time of change and progression (albeit slow) for the country and for the women who live there. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is often heart breaking and painful. Ultimately, it's a powerful story of personal triumph and of being brave enough to make choices to change one's destiny or naseeb.
While at times the novel's pace tends to drag, overall The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a beautiful and haunting story of the subservient and enslaved women who occupy the embattled country and will do what they can to survive and advance.
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi is published by William Morrow and released in May 2014.
**I received a complimentary copy of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**