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The Pearl That Broke Its Shell

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  37,445 ratings  ·  4,191 reviews
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
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by William Morrow
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Nadia This is a fictional story, but one inspired by the unfortunate realities of some girls in our world. Child "marriage" and domestic violence are global…moreThis is a fictional story, but one inspired by the unfortunate realities of some girls in our world. Child "marriage" and domestic violence are global issues. Afghanistan is a country where women and girls have suffered heavy losses as a result of the wars and instability. I am in full agreement that those of us who live in places of peace, having loving family around us and enjoy the opportunity for education should be thankful for these blessings. This was part of my motivation for writing this story. (less)
Pegah jan (informal form is "joon") means dear in persian, and is used in persian more than "dear" is used in English language. It is rude to answer elders …morejan (informal form is "joon") means dear in persian, and is used in persian more than "dear" is used in English language. It is rude to answer elders in family only with their names, so you can add a -jan in the end to make it sound more respectful.(less)

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Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I haven't found a book by Nadia Hashimi that I haven't liked. Maybe it is because I have a preference or fondness toward fiction set in the Middle East or maybe it is because Nadia Hashimi woos me in such a way with her writing, that it is impossible for me to put a book by her down.

In The Pearl That Broke Its Shell there are two alternating story lines. Usually when I'm presented with a book written in such a way, I prefer one story to the other. Not this time. Both stories were equally mesmer
Kevin McAllister
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Reading this novel was an unusual experience in that it was a fascinating, but at the same time,a very painful and disturbing read. I would go as far as to say this was a real page turner. It focused on two different Afghani women. One living at the beginning of the 20th century and the other at the beginning of the 21st. I was always wondering what would happen next. But sadly most of the time it was just a case of their lives deteriorating further and further. The saddest and most painful aspe ...more

This is the story of Rahima and Shekiba. Rahima is our main storyteller, who became a child bride at the age of thirteen, and, together with her two older sisters, Shahla and Parwin, were sold into marriage by their father on the same day. Her life would be riddled with everything an Afghani woman could encounter as part of the cultural practices in their families. The picturesque prose would relate a story of fear, oppression, abuse, love, hope and freedom. Her aunt, Khala Shaima, crippled and
Always Pouting
I really enjoyed the ideas behind the book but not so much the execution which is why I was kind of leaning towards three stars at first. The writing felt juvenile in places and then it would change and be very eloquent. I read this book completely and I wanted to finish it I just wish the editing was better and she had made the writing in the story more consistent and there were places where I felt like I didn't really get anything out of the scenes. I think it's a better read for someone young ...more
Kevin Ansbro
Writing legend and authority on all things Afghani, Khaled Hosseini, endorses this book, and generously wrote thus:
"Nadia Hashimi has written a tender and beautiful family story. Her always engaging multigenerational tale is a portrait of Afghanistan in all of its perplexing, enigmatic glory."

Always engaging? Really?
This unpolished pearl certainly succeeded in breaking my shell and I gave up on it after a charitably gallant effort. It's poorly edited, the writing is all over the place and there
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell, Nadia Hashimi

Nadia Hashimi is a pediatrician, novelist, and a former Democratic congressional candidate for the United States House of Representatives for Maryland's 6th congressional district.

Hashimi is the author of three international bestselling novels, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell, When the Moon Is Low, and A House Without Windows.

Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi's literary debut novel is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one's
Apr 21, 2014 rated it liked it
I was a little girl and then I wasn't. I was a bacha posh and then I wasn't. I was a daughter and then I wasn't. I was a mother and then I wasn't.

3.5 stars. I am in two minds about this book. On the plus side I thought the two alternating stories was good, and it really made me think about women's life’s in Afghanistan. Even though we "know" that they have very little power or freedom, it is a shock to the system to read what this means when translated into someone's daily life. Some of the aspe
DNF at 25%

I have a rule that I do not rate a book unless I read more than half and it is valid for this book as well. The rule does not mean that I will no write a my thoughts on the bit that I read.

I decided to buy this because of its subject: the difficult life of women in Aghanistan. The novel is about the use of the bacha posh custom where young girls are dressed and treated as boys until they become of marriageable age. The custom is usually used to save the honor of daughter-only families
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: afghanistan, fiction
I liked this book,it was so interesting.An eye catching title and a beautiful cover.

And yet,I almost abandoned it in the beginning. The start wasn't too great and the endless repetition of certain phrases like Mader Jan and Pader Jan (for mother and father) was pretty irritating.

I thought,this is yet another story about the miseries of Afghan women and I have read plenty of this sort of stuff before.

But I kept on reading and the story got better and better. I was soon totally engrossed and foun
Maria Espadinha
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Shell Breakers — A Story of Thousand Truths

With 5 daughters to raise and a husband addicted to opium, Mother-Jan had plenty of worries material!

— This family needs a son, advised Khala Shaima, the eldest sister of Mother-Jan

— You really think so? A son?! Is that your best advice, Shaima?! Telling me something I’m sick and tired to know?!
Maybe if your sister could be a better wife, we already had a boy playing around!?... — replied Father-Jan sourly, cos he thoroughly hated Khala Shaima alwa
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bravo, Hashimi on a wonderful debut novel! I thoroughly enjoyed this... I do think 'Birds Fly Away' would have been a better title! I highly recommend this to fans of Khaled Hosseini and I look forward to reading more by her! ...more
Aug 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: cultural
I am torn between 3 and 4 stars. I liked the story, it is the writing that I had a problem with. I will start with the story portion.

This story was told from the view point of two women in Afghanistan 100 years apart. Even though there was a huge gap between the two women, their stories were similar. It was all so sad, tragic and painful. It pained me straight to the heart, to read some of this. I felt the same way about this novel as I did about And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. It w
May 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
I feel I should have given this a higher rating since I read the whole thing, and it kept me fairly engrossed, especially toward the end. But the writing was so, so bad -- atrocious would be a good word. The dialog was stilted, and seemed so flat. The sentences were either too complex, or much too simple. The story was not told well at all. The editing was terrible. With two main points of view, from two different characters, one told in first person, one told in third person, you would think th ...more
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Nadia Hashimi's debut novel is a dual storyline set in Afghanistan and centers around two women- Rahima(21st century) and Shekiba(20th century). Both women are trying to not lose sight of themselves in their male dominated world.

Having read Hashimi's second and third novels, I think this might be my least favorite of the trio. There was a bit of choppiness in the writing and the storylines dragged a bit in places. However, the voices of the character are captivating enough that a new
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Jun 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
***I received this book as part of the First Reads Giveaway program.***

If you’re a woman reading this book, it *will* make you think. I’d been aware of the treatment of women in Afghanistan for years (having worked for an international business school that supported the building of entrepreneurial skills for promising Afghan businesswomen). However, this story – while fiction – still put things in perspective for me. Mainly: that no matter how busy we are as American women – juggling family and
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Review also found at

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher William Morrow via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is May 6 2014.

It is not too often that a book will render me speechless. Many times I may find the wrong words but never speechless. This book has done that to me. I don't know where to start! To top it off, this is Hashimi's debut novel? You have to be kidding me! She really nailed it her
Brooke Waite
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
4 1/2 stars.
I have a pit in my stomach after finishing this book. It was painful, not to read but to know that this is real life for women in Afghanistan.
The story weaves back and forth between two women, related by blood, but separated by 100 years. Sadly, the current story taking place in the 21st century really doesn't differ much from what happened in the early part of the 20th century with the main characters great-great grandmother....women abused, mistreated, and undervalued. Young girls
I loved this debut novel by Hashimi! It is at times a heartbreaking story of the trials of 2 women in Afghanistan. I came to care for both of them, and hated for their tale to end. I usually stay away from long books (this was 452 pages) but it was so well worth it! If you like stories of strong women, this is for you. Highly recommend!!
Connie G
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Set in Afghanistan, the book interweaves the stories of a contemporary young woman and her great-great-grandmother who were both "bacha posh". This is an Afghan custom where families without sons can cut their daughter's hair short and dress her like a boy. She will be treated as a son, enabling her to run errands, do shopping, attend school, and escort her sisters. When she reaches marriageable age, she will go back to being dressed as a girl.

Rachima came from a family of five daughters. She fo
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book is meaningful in that it traces the history of two women in Afghanistan, 100 years apart. Their plight indicates how nothing much has changed in their struggle: they are still subjugated to the whims of their fathers and husbands, misogynistic men who are afraid of women becoming liberated. It highlights clearly how men use force and fear to keep women under their control in abusive relationships and that some women are complicit in this arrangement because they know no other way and a ...more
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
I won this in a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway. I don't remember entering but that's neither here nor there. I don't remember when I started reading it so I just set it to today :-/

This book is about Rahima and her great, great grandmother Shekiba. The story goes back and forth between the two. They both lived sad, horrible lives. I think Shekiba got the worst because she was disfigured on her face as a toddler.

Shekiba's brothers and sister died of cholera, her mother went mad and died, and she
In The Pearl that Broke Its Shell two separate plots are told side by side and demonstrate how little has improved in a century for the daily life of women in Afghanistan. Rahima and Shekiba's stories and the issues they face are tragically similar, no matter that they were born about 100 years apart. Sadly, I don't really understand why the average rating for this is so high, as I found myself becoming consistently bored not with either of the stories, but with the writing itself, which seemed ...more
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-fiction, asia
The story, set in Afghanistan of the early 20th century and the present, tells the story of two women, Shekiba and Rahima. Shekiba, born at the end of the 19th century,suffers a deforming injury, is orphaned, and eventually becomes a guard in the king's harem. Unprotected and alone, she uses both her wits and her physical strength to survive in a place and time when many women suffered violent lives and deaths. At the end of the 20th century, Shekiba's great, great granddaughter, Rahima is born ...more
Ann Girdharry
This is the story of two young girls from the same family, who grow up to be women in Afghanistan - Shekiba and Rahima. The girls lived generations apart and so the story is told in two different times but with very similar experiences for each girl - the experience of a terrifying marriage as a child, the abuse of family-in-laws, the harshness and punishing attitude of their 'husbands', forced sex and rape, the drudgery and emptiness of their lives, their lowly status as women in a society that ...more
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
An interesting concept but poorly executed. The writing was uninspired as was the development of the characters. Given all the awfulness that the two women experience, you'd think you would be very sympathetic. But, I just had no emotional connection to them. I read this for a friend's book club and though I didn't enjoy it, it is a great discussion book. ...more
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellently written!!! For a story with over 400 pages, not once did I think it slowed or faltered in any way! As the time period and characters alternated, I continued to remain submerged in their lives! I am a Nadia Hashimi fan! Hope you think so too!!
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: afghanistan
In a remote village in Afghanistan, Rahima is growing up with a bunch of sisters. When her mother realises there are not going to be any sons, she decides to take the advice of her rebel sister and make one of her daughters into a son. Following the age-old tradition of bacha posh, Rahima became Rahim and began to act like a boy, receiving all the benefits that a patriarchal system bestows on humans born with penises. But what Rahima does not realise that she would have to become a woman again e ...more
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yes, she is now your brother Rahim. You will forget about your sister Rahima and welcome your brother."

With that Rahima's mother begins reorienting Rahima's sisters to Rahim. She has begun her life as a bachem posh, a girl assuming the identity of a boy. This is an ancient Afghani custom which allows a girl to live as a boy until she reaches puberty. Because of all the restrictions placed on females in their society, Rahima welcomes the new freedoms she has as a boy.

Rahima's story is skillfully
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Couldn’t even find a place for my small self to start speaking from within the vastness of this landscape. I don’t know whether to study this, comment on it, hold it, but for now my mind must bathe in it. More to come, in time...
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't seen a real pearl yet. I don't know if it would be slippery to my fingers or if it would transport me to sandy beaches. I don't know how the pearl convinced a shell to protect it from the world. I don't know how a shell would feel if a prying hand reaches it and tries to take out the pearl it is so longingly protecting. I might not know a lot of things but this I know - a pearl breaking its shell has to be the most breathtaking sight ever. It doesn't matter if it is the real pearl or a ...more
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Reader, Mom, Pediatrician, Author, Advocate, Dog Walker (only my own, no solicitations please.)

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