A Tale of Modern Afghanistan

book cover of The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia HashimiThe Pearl that Broke Its Shell

by Nadia Hashimi
William Morrow, 2014
ISBN: 9780062244758
464 pages
Women’s Fiction/Global Fiction

Rahima is the middle child of five sisters in The Pearl that Broke Its Shell. With no males in the family to perform tasks outside the home except an opium-addicted father, Rahima’s mother decides to use the ancient tradition of bacha posh to turn her daughter into a son until Rahima is old enough to be married. Rahima initially relishes in the new-found freedoms–the ability to go where she wants and continue to attend school. She also is able to escort her sisters around the village and go the the market for her mother.

But all her freedoms come to an abrupt end when she catches the eye of a warlord, Abdul Kaliq, whom she is quickly married off to at the young age of thirteen. Finding herself stuck with a cruel man and several other wives, Rahima manages to survive by learning about her great-great grandmother, Shekiba, who had also played the role of a man in early 20th Century Afghanistan.

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell alternates between Rahima’s and Shekiba’s stories in this emotional story of bravery in the face of unimaginable conditions.

Fans of Khaled Hosseini or Jhumpa Lahiri will definitely want to check out The Pearl that Broke Its Shell, as well as anyone who enjoys stories set in other countries, or novels that deal with themes of social justice, family, and women’s issues.

You Might Also Consider…

  • For another tale of sisters separated as girls, check out A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri, set in Iran.
  • For another look at the lives of and friendship between two women in abusive marriages in Afghanistan, try A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • For an exploration of women’s lives and social class in modern India, check out The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

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