Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi


Title: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell

Author: Nadia Hashini
(Author Website)   (Facebook)

Genre: Adult Fiction

Narrator: Gin Hammond (website)

Unabridged Length: 16.2 hours

Publisher:  Blackstone Audio, May 5, 2014

Source: Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program

About the Book: (from good

Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi's literary debut novel, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell 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-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

Related Media:  Nadia Hashimi Introduces “The Pearl That Broke Its Shell”.

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, went 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 important part of their daily lives.

Nadia attended Brandeis University where she obtained degrees in Middle Eastern Studies and Biology. In 2002, she made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents who had not returned to their homeland since leaving in the 1970s. It was a bittersweet experience for everyone, finding relics of childhood homes and reuniting with loved ones.

Nadia enrolled in medical school in Brooklyn and became active with an Afghan-American community organization that promoted cultural events and awareness, especially in the dark days after 9/11. She graduated from medical school and went on to complete her pediatric training at NYU/Bellevue hospitals in New York City. On completing her training, Nadia moved to Maryland with her husband where she works as a pediatrician.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is Hashimi’s debut novel.

About the Narrator:

shot5 Gin Hammond received her MFA from the A.R.T. at Harvard University/Moscow Art Theatre. She has performed nationally at theatres such The Guthrie, Arena Stage, The Longwharf Theatre, Seattle’s ACT, The Pasadena Playhouse, the ART, The Berkshire Theatre Festival and The Studio Theatre in Washington D.C., where she won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for her performance of The Syringa Tree. Internationally, she has performed in Russia, Germany, Ireland, Scotland and England.

Ms. Hammond also received a Kathleen Cornell award, and WA state grants from Allied Arts, The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Artist Trust, 4 Culture, as well as from the NEA. Her voice(s) can be heard on Jim French's Imagination Theatre, Super Granny, Cake Mania, Westward, and Nancy Drew video games, a wide range of industrials, audiobooks produced by Redwood and Cedar House Audio, and Halo 3 ODST. She currently resides in Seattle with her husband, where she writes, directs, teaches and performs.

My Review: Let’s just get this out of the way, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is one of my favorite reads so far this year.   I received The Pearl That Broke Its Shell from the reviewer program at AudioJukeBox.   In my work as a social worker in a metro area, I meet many people and find myself drawn to stories of life within other cultures.  

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is the story of two Afghan women, Shekiba and Rahima.  Shekiba lived in the early 1900’s during the reign of King Habibullah.  Rahima lived in present day Afghanistan.   Shekiba and Rahima shared a commonality of living as a Bacha posh.  Bacha posh ("dressed up as a boy" in the Dari Language) is a cultural practice in which some families without sons will pick a daughter to live and behave as a boy. This enables the child to behave more freely: attending school, escorting her sisters in public, and working. Bacha posh also allows the family to avoid the social stigma associated of not having any male children.

I don’t want to share too much about the story as you have to really experience it and I can’t really give it justice.  I found learning about the history of Afghanistan very interesting.  I found it very interesting how in 1920’s Afghanistan rules by King Amanullah Khan and Queen Soraya was looking towards the ways of the West and were making efforts to modernize and empower the Afghan people.  Fast forward nearly a 100 years to Rahima’s life and those previous efforts to modernize and empower the Afghan people are non existent.  The country is ruled by warlords and wrought with corruption. 

While the Pearl That Broke Its Shells touches of issues such as child marriage, warlords, political unrest, drug addiction, and domestic violence, I really was impacted by the strength, perseverance and determination of Shekiba and Rahima to change their naseeb.  Naseeb means destiny or fate. The literal meaning in Arabic is "share", but it came to be understood as "one's share in life", and thus his destiny. 

This is my first experience with the narration of Gin Hammond.   I really enjoyed listening to The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi.  Gin Hammond provides a very emotional and passionate performance.   Her narration is easy to listen to and very enjoyable.  She bring the story to life in a manner that added to my enjoyment of the story!

My Rating: 4/5 -  The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is a debut novel that is wonderfully written.  It is hard to believe this is Nadia Hashimi debut novel.   I found myself looking for excuses to slip in my earbuds to listen to just a few more chapters.   Hashimi provides a very intimate look into the life of two amazing Afghan women.   I found myself thinking about Shekida and Rahima throughout my day.  The Pearl That  Broke Its Shell is a story that will stay with you long after you close the book.

My Rating Scale: 1 – didn’t like it; 2 – it was ok; 3 – liked it; 4 – really liked it; 5 – it was amazing

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell was also reviewed by the The Book Reporter, The Savvy Reader, Peeking Between the Pages and West Metro Mommy Reads. 

Happy Reading!

**Disclosure – Copy of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi was received from Blackstone Audio in exchange for a fair review.

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