The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is the contemporary story of Rahima, a young girl living in a small town in Afghanistan in 2007 and the past story of her Great-Great Grandmother Shekiba who lived one-hundred years before. Both girls shared a common trait, they were bacha posh, or girls that were dressed and treated as boys and allowed much more freedom than the typical girl living in Afghanistan.
Rahima’s father is often away fighting in endless battles and when he returns, he loses himself in his drug addiction. With five daughters and no sons, Rahima’s mother finds herself at a loss. She cannot enter the market place by herself and also cannot work. Her only solution is to have Rahima become Rahim. Rahima loves her new freedom; she’s able to walk along the streets free from harassment and also gets to go to school. She gets a part-time after school job to help out the family and does all of the shopping. All is well until she turns 13 and can no longer hide her femininity. Her world is shattered when her father decides to marry her and her two older sisters off to a warlord and his two cousins. Will Rahima find a way to keep her independent spirit?
Shekiba loses her family early in life. Disfigured by an accident as a child, she has no worth to the rest of her family. She also becomes a bacha posh and leads a new life guarding the King’s harem. Will this be her destiny or will she find future happiness?
My favorite quote in this book is “What can a girl do in this world, anyway?” That seems to be the theme of the book, the oppression of women, but with hope for the future. I read this book fairly quickly. I liked the alternating chapters between Rahima and Shekiba’s stories. I found both stories equally intriguing with their own unique voices. I found the book rather sad. Even with the changes the last 15 years have brought to Afghanistan, many of them are superficial. I was disturbed to read about the women that are voted into parliament only to vote for their husband’s wishes. But there were also women there acting on their own and hope for the future.
I also liked reading about Afghanistan 100 years ago and Shekiba’s story. Not being able to keep your family’s land or have any rights is terrible enough, but to be an outcast because of a childhood accident is even worse. I liked how real historical figures were a part of Shekiba’s story and how they showed that there could be a bright future for Afghanistan.
I picked this book for the FLICKS Book and Movie Club February selection. I thought it would give us some interesting issues to discuss. I hope the other ladies read it so we can discuss it!
The one item in the book I wasn’t pleased with was the end. I felt that Shekiba’s story had no real ending. Rahima’s did, but it was still worthy of an epilogue. What happened to her? What happened to Shekiba? Was her little boy Rahima’s Great-Grandfather?
Overall, an intriguing look at the lives of women in Afghanistan current and historical.
Book Source: Review Copy from William Morrow – Thanks!