Monday, May 12, 2014
THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL (NADIA HASHIMI)
HarperCollins Publishers|April 10, 2014|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-233851-8
Debut Afghan-American author Nadia Hashimi's THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL, the entwined stories of two Afghan women separated by a century who find freedom in the tradition of bacha posh, which allows girls to dress and live as boys until they are of marriageable age.
"I think it is time we change something for you. I think it would be best if we let you be a son to your father."
Kabul, 2009: Growing up in a family with five daughters and no sons, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and then, as they grow older, can rarely leave the house. Their mother struggles to support the family as their father becomes increasingly addicted to drugs. But one day their aunt, Khala Shaima, makes a suggestion: as a bacha posh, Rahima can become a son-dressing as a boy, with a boy's name, tread as a boy-until she is of marriageable age. She will be able to attend school and go to the marketplace. It's an old custom, but one that most of society turns a blind eye to when girls are young. And then Khala Shaima begins to tell a story that transforms Rahima's life: the story of her great-great-grandmother, Shekiba.
Kabul, 1909: Shekiba, the daughter of a rural farming family, is disfigured in an accident as a child. When her parents and siblings die in a cholera epidemic, she has no one left to support her and is treated as little better than a slave in a relative's home until she is able to escape her life of drudgery by dressing as a man. Through a rare stroke of luck, she becomes one of the guards of the king's harem in a lavish palace in the capital city, and eventually manages to make a life for herself: one that ultimately includes a husband and children.
Shekiba, at the turn of the 20th century, and her great-great-granddaughter, Rahima, in modern-day Afghanistan, have parallel destinies. Rahima relishes her newfound freedom as a boy-but when she is of marriageable age, her freedom ends. She and her sisters are sold in marriage to the family of a local warlord. Facing a dark reality with an abusive family, can she ever become accustomed to the way a woman must behave? Can she adapt and overcome like her great-aunt, Shekiba? And if she can't-will she survive?
A riveting, poignant tale about family, freedom and determination, perfect for readers of A Thousand Splendid Suns or Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.
I was pulled into this story from the very beginning and couldn't stop reading until I was done. I loved Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and A Thousand Splendid Suns and read this one with even more interest than the other two. I can't believe this a debut novel. Nadia Hashimi writes like that of a well-seasoned author and this is destined to become a bestseller for sure. I definitely didn't want this one to end and hope that there will be some sort of sequel. What a powerful read this was and one I won't soon forget!