Adopting the custom of bacha posh in 2007 Kabul, which allows her to dress and be treated as a boy, attend school and chaperone her sisters until she is of marriageable age, Rahima, the daughter of a drug-addicted father, discovers that she is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. 50,000 first printing - (Baker & Taylor)
Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi's literary debut novel is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one's own fate that combines the cultural flavor and emotional resonance of the works of Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See.
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?
A luminous and unforgettable tale of two women, destiny, and identity in Afghanistan
Kabul, 2007: The Taliban rules the streets. With a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can rarely leave the house or attend school. Their only hope lies in the ancient Afghan custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a son until she is of marriageable age. As a boy, she has the kind of freedom that was previously unimaginable . . . freedom that will transform her forever.
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 in the same way—the change took her on a journey from the deprivation of life in a rural village to the opulence of a king's palace in the bustling metropolis of Kabul.
Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell interweaves the stories of these two remarkable women who are separated by a century but share the same courage and dreams. What will happen once Rahima is old enough to marry? How long can Shekiba pass as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?
*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. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews
Set in Afghanistan, this emotionally engaging first novel uses alternating chapters to weave together the story of nine-year-old Rahima and her sisters with that of their great-great-grandmother Shekiba. Both Rahima and Shekiba share the experience of participating in bacha posh, in which young girls are dressed as and treated as boys until puberty. And like Shekiba, Rahima and her two older sisters endure the difficult and often horrific experience of being married off as young girls as second, third, or fourth wives to much older men. Although decades separate the distinctive stories of these women as they move from girlhood to adulthood, the hardships suffered by women in the Afghan culture remain the chilling tie that binds them. VERDICT Hashimi succeeds in crafting a novel that incorporates gripping stories of survival with passionate tales of motherhood and inner strength throughout. Filled with tragedy and triumph, this work is sure to be appreciated by readers who enjoy similarly told stories with strong protagonists by authors such as Lisa See and the Afghanistan-born Khaled Hosseini.—Shirley Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA
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