Happy Black Friday everybody! I hope that everybody had a great time celebrating Thanksgiving with their families and hopefully you’re not hitting the Black Friday sales too hard, unless you want to be of course! Like the past few years, I’m making it my goal to not step foot in a mall this whole Christmas season if I can help it! Instead, I’m planning to do the bulk of my shopping online and wait for all of those boxes to come in the mail!
It’s so hard to believe that November is almost over, which then means that the year is almost over, and that it’s time for another Beyond Words: A Blogger’s Book Club linkup with Carolann and Christy! Earlier this year I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and I was so incredibly moved by this book. It was so interesting to read about the Afghan culture and horrifying to read what this country has been through with all of the war and destruction. So when the SCWBC16 came out and one of the categories was to read a book written by somebody that’s a different race or religion than you, I immediately thought of another Khaled Hosseini book. Unfortunately I didn’t own any of his other books, but I did own The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, which is also set in Afghanistan and written by an Afghan American. Plus the fact that Erin had written such a fantastic review about helped to seal the deal for me. When Carolann asked for recommendations for this month’s book, I selfishly suggested The Pearl That Broke Its Shell since I was already planning on reading it, and I’m so glad that it was selected this month!
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi is set in Afghanistan in 2007 after the Taliban had been defeated by the United States. Even though the Taliban was defeated the threat of war and bombs is still very much a constant fear for the people of Afghanistan, and women’s rights are still very much limited because of the culture. Rahima is a young girl living in a small village in Afghanistan, and with four other sisters, her prospects are very limited, especially with a father that’s addicted to drugs. While Rahima and her two older sisters attend school sporadically, her aunt one day convinces her mother that Rahima really needs an education to make a life for herself by telling them the story of her great aunt Shekiba who dealt with some of the same issues.
When her mother is finally convinced, Rahima becomes a bacha posh a common Afghan custom, meaning that she dressed and is treated like a boy until she becomes of age. When Rahima becomes a boy, she realizes how much freedom she has and all that she is capable of doing, so when her bacha posh world comes crashing down around her, she must quickly learn what it’s like to be a woman in Afghanistan again. Rahima is not the only one that has dealt with the bacha posh world before though. Throughout her life and hardships, Rahima’s aunt continuously tells her the story of her great aunt Shekiba, and both of their stories are perfectly interwoven throughout the book.
Just like The Kite Runner, I found this book to absolutely fascinating. I always love reading about cultures that are different than my own because I really feel like you can learn a lot, and I definitely learned a lot while reading this book. The biggest thing that I learned was how thankful I am to live in the United States where I don’t have to worry about not being able to go out in public without my husband, that I can have my own voice and opinion, and that my dad didn’t sell me to the highest bidder to feed an addiction.
I also liked how the chapters switched perspectives between Rahima and Shekiba. There are a lot of books that do this, and sometimes it works really well, and other times it will inhibit the story. For The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, the different perspectives enhanced the story. It was crazy to see how even though 100 years had passed, these women were still dealing with the same issues and struggles, and how women were still very much limited in what they could do and say. If you think back to what the United States was like 100 years ago women weren’t allowed to vote and didn’t have a lot of the same rights as men. Could you imagine if things were still like that today?
Another aspect of the book that I found really interesting was to read about the difference between life in the big cities, mainly the capital city of Kabul, versus life in the surrounding provinces. Customs were taken a lot more seriously in the small villages while in Kabul women in general had more freedoms, even if they were still limited. For example, Shekiba wasn’t allowed to venture out in public in her village without a man, while she was able to go and see somebody speak in Kabul by herself.
The final aspect of the book that I found to be very interesting was the relationships between all the different women in the book. Both Shekiba and Rahima struggled with the how their husbands’ other wives treated them. It was amazing to me how abusive these women could be towards each other, even though they were all in the same boat when it came to dealing with their sometimes abusive husbands. Maybe it was a cultural thing to be every woman for herself, but I would have thought that there could have been a little more strength in numbers or a solidarity sisters type of thing.
Overall, this was another one of my favorite books of the year, and I gave it a solid 5/5 stars on Goodreads. It was fascinating to me to read about another culture and to see how things hadn’t really changed in Afghanistan even though 100 years had passed between Shekiba and Rahima. But be prepared to be horrified too. These women were very much abused by our cultural standards, and it was tough to read how they were treated like property and beaten and continuously pushed down. If reading about other cultures interests you, I definitely recommend picking up The Pearl That Broke Its Shell.
Have you read any good books lately? Do you like reading about other cultures?