The Pearl That Broke Its Shell: A Novel

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell: A Novel

by Nadia Hashimi


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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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062244765
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/06/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 118,135
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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. In 2002, Nadia made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents. She is a pediatrician and lives with her family in the Washington, DC, suburbs. She is the author of three books for adults, as well as the middle grade novels One Half from the East and The Sky at Our Feet. Visit her online at

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The Pearl that Broke Its Shell: A Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 78 reviews.
sneps More than 1 year ago
The cover is stunning, absolutely beautiful! I love the title and felt that it went well with the theme of the book. If readers are aware of the traditional Muslim gender roles, in the Middle East, then this book shouldn’t be too much of a shock. There were many times that my heart ached over the way girls were treated vs. boys, the family expectations of women and multiple wives, the devaluation of a woman and the importance of birthing sons, and the inability to walk outside their home without men/boys attacking or harming them. While the religious culture is vastly different from that promotes gender equality, it is a story that needs to be told and highlighted to understand the themes in the storyline. Nadia writes so beautifully and shifts between the past and present flawlessly. Shekiba’s story is one that is filled with sorrow, sadness, but also has glimmers of hope and new beginnings. Her story read almost like a folktale, that can be passed down from generation to generation for young girls to be inspired and create change. I was so engrossed with Shekiba’s tale that it was hard to switch mentally to Rahima’s storyline. However, both stories switched back and forth seamlessly. Rahima is a little girl, who experiences both sides of the gender norms: as a boy and girl. As a girl, she experiences being bullied by the boys her age, the inability to walk to school safely, having to wear her burqua, the disappointment she sees in her father’s eyes, etc. As a boy, she experiences many freedoms of going to school without harassment, going to the story and bargaining/buying goods, having the time to socialize and play after school and not prepare meals, and the approval she gets from her father. Rahima lives in a household where the country is changing, having to see her father leave for bouts at a time, and have him return to a drunken/drugged stupor. She also hears the talks amongst the family in her house and their thoughts on family, politics/country, and the “girl talk” women have. This is a long book. It took me awhile to read, simply because it was so mesmerizing to learn and read about the culture in Afghanistan, the changing country, and how two families are impacted with gender roles, religion, and political climate change. It’s a beautiful book and one that will easily be compared to Khaled Hosseini and his lyrical style of writing, in a practical format, that people of all backgrounds will enjoy, cry, rejoice, and remember for a long time.-BooksintheBurbs
vms More than 1 year ago
I found this book enlightening.  I, like most Americans, could not envision what these women have and are going thru in their daily lives.  Although totally different from our religious beliefs, I watched them holdfast to their religion even though it meant unendless suffering.  I could not put this book down.  You  do have to think about where you are - early 1900's or 2007 as you read.  Thank you, Nadia Hashimi, for sharing this story.  Fact or fiction, I needed to learn about this part of our world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eye opener into the lives of these women.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading this book, I am so appreciative of the life I lead in America.  It makes me  thankful for all of the freedoms that women have here.  I had to keep reminding myself that the women in this book are not real.  It is very easy to become emotional involved with the characters.  
Annie950 More than 1 year ago
Absolutely exceptional. Beautiful intriguing story. Highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was struck by the story and cried with the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very sad but true story that reveals what is still happening today in parts of the world
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first I thought the book was a little slow but then I could not put it down! I have little understanding of the Afghanistan culture aside from what I see on the news. I felt such anguish and joy for these women as I peered into their lives and got a glimpse of a culture I know so little of. I highly recommend "The Pearl that Broke It's Shell" and am greatly anticipating the authors next release!
mystery53 More than 1 year ago
This beautiful story written about two women, a century apart, depicts the struggles of their life under the subjugation of a male dominated society. Both women find their way out of an imprisoned life enforced by the social norms of the respective era. Also, both women are given a brief respite from the confining life as a woman and experience life as a male. The difference is dramatic. Life for women in 2007 hasn't changed much for the Afghanistan woman. This is a beautifully written novel and a reminder to all women in this country of our newly attained freedom in just the last 100 years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MomsChoiceAwards More than 1 year ago
A recipient of the Mom's Choice Awards! The Mom's Choice Awards® (MCA) evaluates products and services created for parents and educators and is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. Using a rigorous evaluation process, entries are scored on a number of elements including production quality, design, educational value, entertainment value, originality, appeal and cost. Around the world, parents, educators, retailers and members of the media trust the MCA Honoring Excellence seal when selecting quality products and services for families and children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The interwoven stories of two Afghan girls was an good way to present this story.
J9mail More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, has left me thinking about it for several days. How females are treated is sinful, sad and hard to believe this is still going on. I was surprised that this book was really good and kept my interest. Hard to put down towards the end.
alinefromabook More than 1 year ago
“Shahla stood by our front door, the bright green metal rusting on the edges.” So begins the story of Rahima and Shekiba. This book had me absolutely engrossed from the first word to the last period. And this is the author’s first book which makes it a remarkable piece of fiction in my opinion. The book is actually two stories. Rahima’s story starts first. She is a girl in Afghanistan and is about 9 when the story opens. Rahima’s story begins in the early 2000’s. She has 4 sisters and desperately wants to go to school but her father only lets the girls attend sporadically. Her father is a veteran of various wars in her region and is aligned with a local warlord who keeps him supplied with opium. The girls and their mother spend most of their time trying not to send their father into a rage. The bright spot in Rahima’s life is her aunt who tells the girls stories. One of these stories is about Shekiba who is Rahima’s great-great- grandmother and she lived in Afghanistan in the early 1900’s. Shekiba spent a period of her life disguised as a man and Rahima’s mother decides to do the same thing with Rahima and turns her into a boy. Rahima then enjoys the next couple of years of her life being a boy and getting to attend school and play games with the boys and do all the things that her sisters cannot do. Then one day a misunderstanding turns her world upside down. Shekiba’s story begins with an accident as a toddler that disfigures half of her face. Her family lives in a compound with the extended family but because of her disfigurement she repeatedly faces rejection from all but her immediate family. I found it especially interesting that she actually finds refuge in her burqa. The garment that we in the West see as a symbol of oppression actually allows Shekiba to leave her home without facing ridicule. Unfortunately, the tragedies for Shekiba continue to mount as she loses her loved ones and is used by her extended family as payment for debts. But she continues to seek more for her life in spite of her circumstances. The stories of Rahima and Shekiba are told alternately throughout the book and Rahima finds hope and courage through the stories of Shekiba. Both of these girls suffer through brutality and uncertainty in their lives but the stories show how the human spirit can triumph over adversity. It is unimaginable to me the challenges they faced and their ability to keep fighting and stay true to themselves. This book is a beautifully written debut novel. The characters really come to life and draw you into their worlds. This is a culture that I know almost nothing about and yet the stories of facing struggle and adversity are universal. And while I can’t relate to the circumstances of their daily lives the author does a great job of describing the worlds in which they live. I give this book 4 out of 4 stars and highly recommend it to those who like a good story or a glimpse into a different culture.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book I originally had to read this book for my enlish class, and at first just didn't know what to pick, but I loved the way this book was written this book teaches readers about the struggles that some people went through and how they had to overcome it. I think that usually people like to read books that portray good things that have happened, although this book is sad even the ending is a little sad, people need to know about this kind of thing. People like to read books that they can relate to and they don't really open up to books that have things in them that they haven't experienced. The Pearl that Broke Its shell is a really inspirational story that can teach people about things that still happen in our world today. Overall great book and I totally recommend for anyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A difficult subject for privileged westerners to read and picture. This is a spellbinding story of two generations of women coping with their lots in life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
18876111 More than 1 year ago
Even though the chapters were from the point of view of two different people, the book flowed extremely well. Also, the different points of view were two different stories, however, they meshed really well together and weren't confusing at all. The two different points of views, while different were still extremely similar. I loved Nadia's writing. I also learned quite a bit about a different culture. I really felt for Rahima, and the things that she had to endure. I can't wait to read more from Nadia
TLJo More than 1 year ago
archetype67 More than 1 year ago
Nadia Hashimi's debut novel is a strong work that explores the lives of two Afghani women who lived a hundred years apart. Both women, for different reasons, participate in a Afghan tradition, bacha posh of dressing a daughter as a boy when there are no sons. The novel tackles the issues of child marriage, abuse, discord between women of a household (second, third, and fourth wives as well as mother-in-laws), opium abuse, warlords, corruption, and the impact of war and invasion on everyday people. The focus is on the burden on women in the society and the split narratives show how little conditions for women have changed. What is interesting is that the portrayal of Rahima is not a story of someone living under the radical Taliban beliefs, but of the more traditional Afghan society. Her great-great-grandmother, Shekiba's world is that of the monarchy. One can see how despite the changes in government, little has changed for women. Hashimi's language is beautiful at times but the world she paints is bleak, full of loss and struggle. There is strength in many the women who exist in the novel but it creates a bitterness that they often take out on each other and leaves the reader with a sense of anger and a desire for them to turn that bitterness and anger on the men who have built this dreadful world they inhabit. The two women's stories end differently, but for me it is Rahima's that falls short. It felt rushed and almost anti-climactic. Granted, at 450 pages, it was time to end it, but there was room for editing earlier on that could have left more space to do her story justice in the ending. It wasn't a bad ending in terms of where it left the reader, rather a poorly paced ending that lost the potential impact of a better structured and written ending. Despite the rush at the end, the novel is worth the read for the insights into a world few westerners can fathom. It is through novels that we can develop empathy for those who live a life so different from our own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this story. One of my favorites now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book, with many moments that tug on your heart. Tough to read at times, but so well written!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago