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A Pure Heart

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  903 ratings  ·  138 reviews
A powerful novel about two Egyptian sisters, their divergent fates and the secrets of one family

Sisters Rose and Gameela Gubran could not have been more different. Rose, an Egyptologist, married an American journalist and immigrated to New York City, where she works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gameela, a devout Muslim since her teenage years, stayed in Cairo. During
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 6th 2019 by Viking
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Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  903 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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jv poore
The Gubran family led a normal, content life in Cairo. Rose and Gigi were, to Rose’s thinking, the best friends that sisters are meant to be. There would always be quarrels, but nothing to break their bond. Even as they age, pursue further education, broaden their horizons with new people and ways of life; they would surely stick together.

Thinking back, though, maybe Rose hadn’t been so supportive. Or remotely open-minded. As Gigi grew more devout and adopted some Muslim customs that Rose consid
Anna Luce
★★✰✰✰ 2 ½ stars

A Pure Heart’s portrayal of sisterhood is tepid at best.
The needlessly expository narration, the clichéd character dynamics, and the meandering storyline didn't really grab me at all.

This novel reminded me a lot of The Other Americans and many other titles that seemed aimed at an American we have these two sisters who don't get along: one is usually very religious and perceived by the others as conservative; the other one is usually pursuing some sort of academic s
Marie Manilla
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"A Pure Heart" is a beautiful exploration of grief, guilt, and how misguided faith can lead to great tragedy. Though we often want pure villains to blame, Hassib’s novel reminds us that humans are much more complex than that. Maybe there are no pure monsters. Maybe there are parts in each one of us that could be monstrous under the right circumstances. Hassib’s clear-eyed knowledge of Egyptian history and politics are impressive and skillfully handled. I loved the sections set in Egypt and New Y ...more
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The cover is gorgeous. The characters are complex. This is a delicately told story of two sisters, diverging and colliding, with the turmoil of Tahrir Square in the background. I love the anchoring in the Arab Spring, the exploration of politics playing out in a family -- as politics always does.
Not sure how I feel about this just yet so won't rate it now. Review to come at some point. ...more
Faroukh Naseem
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What do you say about a book that has just about everything you want from a book?
#theguywiththebookreview presents A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib
This wonderfully balanced narrative about two sisters and their simple yet complicated relationship is so heartwarming and painful at the same time. There are so many things unfortunately I cannot discuss about it because they are huge spoilers although we find them out pretty early/mid-way through the book.
Strangely enough although this isn’t a huge b
Jessica Haider
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: islam, bipoc-author
Two sisters, Rose and Gameela, who grew up in Cairo, Egypt but end up on divergent paths as adults. Rose studies Egyptology , marries an American journalist and moves to NYC to work at a museum. Gameela, who was always more traditional and a devout Muslim, stays in Cairo living with her parents. Shortly after the Egyptian Revolution, Gameela dies in a suicide bombing. Rose returns home to try to figure out what happened.

At its heart, this was a story about two sisters, who though they end up th
biblio_mom (Aiza)
Oct 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.7 star to this moving, captivating and powerful novel about two Egyptian sisters that has unspoken pure love towards each other, about their family and country.

Every single time when I read about revolutions in Egypt and how it affected its people, it just shattered my heart all over again. There's nothing big happening in the story, but it has surprises. Its a book that made me constantly have to put down the book and stares at the sky out of my window because somehow, I can feel the pain th
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This beautifully written novel begins with Rose in Egypt, sifting through her sister Gameela’s belongings to try to understand how she was caught up in a deadly terrorist attack. As the story unfolds, we find out more about Rose’s marriage to an American journalist, Mark, as well as Gameela’s personal journey to find her own way as a Muslim woman. The political underpinnings of the story are illuminating, and Rose’s relationship with her sister reflect the times. I loved this novel and highly re ...more
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Maybe I’m rating this too highly, but oh man what a breath of fresh air after an iffy start to the reading month!

Hassib’s sophomore novel is told in two timelines—though I admit that it took me until the end to realize that one was told in past tense and one in present tense. :/ My own writing tends to switch tenses with indiscrimination; apparently this is a blind spot!

Parts one, three and five are told in the aftermath of a suicide bombing in Egypt, which has claimed the life of the protagonis
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I read this intense, powerful, and heartbreaking book mostly in one sitting.

A novel of two very different sisters set in contemporary Egypt.

After reading this and two other books [A Door in the Earth and Godsend] that also deal with being Muslim among other topics, it's time for a lighter read.

Karen Raskin
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. A good story involving two Egyptian sisters, who lives diverged in ways that made them both frustrated with their relationship and with their situations. I appreciated learning more about Egyptian history and culture. A satisfying read.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it
The story is starts with one sister trying to learn what happened to her sister. The story parallels a question about the Arab Spring...i.e., why was its goal elusive? The movement and momentum are located in the story itself. The writing and particularly its tone and pacing are solid and measured, respectively.

I like this book. And I like this book better than the author's first book, In the Language of Miracles. I dislike comparing titles because sometimes it's not a good way
Danelle The Librarian
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib
“Every person who falls does so with the blessing of a society who chooses not to care about him.”
Rose is an Egyptian woman living in NYC with her American husband mark. They met in Cairo when he was based there on assignment as a reporter, and now live in NYC so rose can work on her thesis. The novel is a curious intersection of exploring marriage and relationships, exploring secrets, and the key to personal happiness. The conflict stems from the strained relationshi
Karla Strand
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an intimate story of relationships, intentions, and the purity of the human heart. The story centers two sisters in post-Arab Spring Egypt who live their adult lives on different continents, in different ways, pushing a variety of limits. Their Islamic faith plays a role in each of their lives, to varying degrees. When one sister dies in a suicide bombing, the other sister is left to make sense of her sister's secrets, the event itself, and the role her husband played in it. This is a bo ...more
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
*warning* I stopped reading the book halfway but I think I read enough.

Everytime I pick up a book that is advertised as a “Muslim” book I expect a lot. I expect non-cliche storylines, characters who are loving and happy, and characters who are not always suffering. I want characters who put a different outlook on things and are peaceful with their thoughts and emotions because that’s what a muslim is. I was very weary of picking up this book because the description mentioned a suicide bombing an
Fayrouz "Rose" Gubran has had what many may perceive as an idyllic life. She and her sister, Gameela, were raised by loving parents, Nora and Ahmad. Both daughters have received advanced educational studies, Rose in Egyptology/Archeology and Gameela in Engineering. And then when Rose was in her mid-twenties, she met an American reporter, Mark Hatfield. Mark was different from the other men she had met, they fell in love, he converted to Islam so they could get married (Muslim women aren't allowe ...more
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5. This took me a long time to read despite the fact that I would have devoured it in a day or two if I had had the time. It is beautifully written. It tells the story of two Egyptian sisters whose lives follow different paths. As I was reading the last 50 or so pages, I was totally aware of where the novel was moving to and a piece of me thought if I just didn’t get to the end then gameela could still be alive.
Sarah Robbins
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 rounding to 5. This book let me live another life that I was completely caught up in. I love that it's written about an Egyptian woman by an Egyptian woman. My only qualifier for the half star was that the narration felt a little stilted in the beginning but it gained fluency and momentum as I was caught up in the plot. ...more
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
i feel guilty for giving this such a low rating, but i genuinely didn’t enjoy it or connect much with the story. also it did the thing where it mentioned politics, but somehow made it sound completely apolitical?? and and there was this passage about how rose’s brown skin contrasted with her white husband’s, and it was...yeah
Gail Nelson
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. Probably would have been a solid 4 if I had read it straight through. Had to start and stop often, so I lost the momentum...
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 powerful. Second half better.
Jan 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Trying just a little too hard to be deep
Amy Carter
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting look into daily life in Egypt, the struggles of being an outsider, and how a person can make the choice to blow other people up.
Sep 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
3.5 stars, I think? The writing is very nice and some of the characters follow interesting arcs of redemption, forgiveness, and self-fulfillment. I also liked the parallel between the protagonist's profession as an archaeologist and her attempt to piece together her sister's secrets following her death. However, I found the plot mostly lacking in forward momentum. I think this is often the case with books whose climaxes are events that are foretold early on; it's a structural issue. It's hard to ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
After her sister is killed by a suicide bomber in Cairo, Rose uses her skills as an archaeologist to do the only thing that might help her grieve: figure out how her sister came to be in that place at that time. In A Pure Heart, by Rajia Hassib, perspectives shift between Rose, her sister Gameela, Rose’s husband Mark, and a few others to answer that question. This premise blossoms over the course of the book to look at troubled family relationships, religion, and the way that we all show differe ...more
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
I wished that there was more focus on Gamela & Rose’s relationship. I refuse to believe that the sour/ sensitive nature of their sibling dynamic is bcs of the fact that one day Gamela had decided to done the headscarf. There is so much more to the relationship that you can uncover - something deeper & nuanced - but sadly, it was just glossed over.

I also don’t understand why the author had made the decision to include multiple pov into the storyline. I think she should’ve just stick to Gamela & R
Rachel Rooney
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Pure Heart is about 2 Egyptian sisters, one of whom has just died in a suicide bombing. The other sister, an Egyptologist who married an American journalist, is left trying to understand what happened.

This was a beautifully written book and deeply moving. I really appreciate when I read a book set in another country and I feel like I really learned something about that country and its people, but I want the message to be written on my heart instead of my mind. I want something I can connect w
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A review copy of this novel arrived in my mail box this week and I found it fascinating on several levels. It is an easy to read and thought provoking story of sibling rivalry, the adjustments required by immigrants to the USA, and family dynamics.

The issues of religious beliefs, social customs, sexual equality, and class differences flesh out the story as it revolves around the relationships between the sisters, their parents, and how marriage can change the balance.

If you like to experience
Deepika Anand
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
The book is pretty predictable. the book starts very strongly. It almost made me feel it is going in paranormal direction but nothing like that. Somewhere in the middle of the book, I felt the storyline became weak and was kind of a drag but towards the end, the plot picks up again. I liked the Cleopatra angle frequently referenced to in the novel probably because I too am an immigrant. Definitely not a kind of book you would want to keep in your collection. Just borrow it from the library.
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Rajia Hassib was born and raised in Egypt and moved to the United States when she was twenty-three. Her first novel, In the Language of Miracles, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and received an honorable mention from the Arab American Book Award. She holds an MA in creative writing from Marshall University, and she has written for The New York Times Book Review and The New Yorker online. She ...more

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“God knows what's in everyone's heart. Works are judged based on the intentions behind them, on the purity of one's heart.” 0 likes
“Rose wished everyone would study ancient Egyptian religion, then go on to study Judaism, Christianity, Coptic Christianity-as she did during her MA in Egypt-and Islam, and then go on to read about every major religion practiced on earth, like she had done after meeting Mark. If more people did so, perhaps they would finally recognize their similarities and learn to live with their differences, practicing their beliefs, their own way and not expecting others to follow suit.” 0 likes
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