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Publisher's Summary

Afghan American Nadia Hashimi's literary debut 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-aunt Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl That Broke Its Shellinterweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?

©2014 Nadia Hashimi (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • SydSavvy
  • PARIS, TX, United States
  • 01-04-15

Inner View of Hidden Women

Another excellent surprise. This started out a little rough for me, but I'm so glad I stuck with it. It is a book with huge scope covering the lives of two women in Afghanistan, this will first make you curious and then begin tugging on your heart strings from a powerful new (old) perspective, that of the imprisoned and disenfranchised women. Shall we not guard or own freedoms with all of our being? In what ways do we need to break out of our shells?

Also, this book really brings home the very limited world view that so many trapped women have and why. It's so hard for me to fathom. I'm so thankful for my life, and I'll learn about the issues and exercise my right to vote every single time. I can't help but wonder -- if push came to shove, would we be as brave as these women?

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Powerful, compelling

Powerful, compelling. What a good read. It always grieves me to see how people in other countries are treated and this book as no exception. What these women go through is absolutely horrifying. I have read several books of this type and have to say that I think the author did a great job with this book. She gave a unique perspective by having one of the girls be a bacha posh and then showing her life after that time as well as the lives of others in Afghan. So thankful that I live in the USA and we don’t have to face things like this today.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Story you will never forget

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes I would. This audiobook has so much to offer in terms of engaging the listener and creating images in the mind that stir the heart.

What other book might you compare The Pearl That Broke Its Shell to and why?

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Both authors weave multiple stories within the story and show how other cultures live, love, and believe. The social fabrics are so well presented in these two novels yet speak volumes as to the underlying truth. Different from us in America, yet utterly human and with the same emotions and desires.

What does Gin Hammond bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Well, her narrative style was superlative. Although she doesn't have the masculine voice timber, her style made the male characters believable anyhow and gave them depth. I think just reading the book wouldn't have been nearly as visceral as her narrative provided.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Follow your heart.

Any additional comments?

I hated for the story to end. I'll probably listen again and it'll be all fresh and new and wonderful once more. Excellent story and great writing.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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His Eye Is On The Sparrow


I found this gem in a list of suggestions for the best books of the year. I couldn't agree more, for this is one of the best books I have listened to in a very long time. Do not be intimidated with the faraway names of the cast. You will easily be able to follow the stories of these women and feel blessed for having heard them.

The story begins with nine year old Rahima, the middle of five daughters in a family living in Kabul Afghanistan in 2009. To enable the family, her mother makes her a bache posh (to live and dress as a boy through adolescence). Rahima life is overnight vastly elevated. The freedom of being male permits her to perform chores outside the home. But imagine the inevitable reverse transformation. During visits their beloved disabled aunt shares tales of the life of their ancestor, Khala Shaima that also lived in Kabul, but in the early 1900’s. In alternating chapters we follow the women through twenty years of remarkable struggles of endurance and survival. The voice of the great, great grandmother’s gives hope and encouragement to push her granddaughter through her similar strife, a century later.

Each woman’s story is the depth of emotional highs and lows. You will hold your breath and your heart will beat faster repeatedly for their lives are constantly in peril. Reading this work puts ones ‘personal stresses’ in perspective. It is amazing that in the one hundred years separating these women the oppression is relatively unchanged. Further interesting, to me, is regardless of the land or the century, the ruthless disregard for compassion that women have for one another.

Nadia Hashimi is just masterful at weaving unimaginable tales in a clear manner while detailing an immense amount of tradition and rules. Hard to believe this is a debut novel. Gin Hammond’s narration is flawless in transparent execution.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • B.J.
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 11-24-14

I really wanted to love this book.

I count on books to give me a glimpse of what life is like for other people in environments that are completely different from mine. Settling in with this one, I hoped to get something really insightful about women in Afghanistan. Through the tale of the two main characters, I think I have a better understanding of day-to-day life and the control placed on women. Culturally, it's eye-opening. That's all good - particularly if it's new turf for the reader. My issue had more to do with the writing and the narration.

I hate saying anything negative about an author's first book. But in this particular book, the dialogue feels so stilted that I have to comment on it. I'm not sure if it's an accurate look at the kinds of conversations people have or a flaw in the writing. I just know that sometimes I felt like I was listening to a YA. It felt choppy and was narrated in a way that exaggerated it.

This book will likely be on every book club's reading list for 2015. If it brings awareness, then it has done its job. Though the writing isn't nearly as graceful as I'd hoped, it is very functional. It's a book I liked - but could not love.

17 of 21 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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powerful story

If you could sum up The Pearl That Broke Its Shell in three words, what would they be?

As a Farsi speaker, I was a little annoyed with the narrator who kept messing up the Farsi words! The story was powerful, inspiring and engaging.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Beautiful and tragic

This book was fantastic. Hashimi has a perfect grasp on tension, because she alternated between Rahima and Shekiba at the exact moment that I felt she needed to. Both stories are incredibly well told, and the writing is definitely gripping.

This is not an easy book to read. The lives of these two women are not easy, and often I just felt so lost that they could not catch a break. More than once, I just asked "Why do people care so much if they have a boy or a girl?" out loud to no one in particular.

This book doesn't ever answer that question, because at its heart this is about making your own destiny. Ultimately, who cares if you are born a boy or a girl, you will be given tests to make yourself better. Never lie down in the face of adversity. There is so much to unpack from this book, and I will definitely continue to look for Hashimi's novels because her writing style is wonderful.

As for Hammond's performance, I loved it! Her voice was easy to listen to while still keeping my attention. (This book never put me to sleep!)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Powerful and Riveting Story

I just finished listening to this audiobook, and am sitting here with tears in my eyes. This is the most moving story I have read in a long time....I just couldn't put it down. Truly wonderful story and performance!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Novel that drew one in to women's Afghanistan

What did you love best about The Pearl That Broke Its Shell?

I loved the way I was drawn in to the experience of women in Afghanistan. Having grown up in the Middle East, I was curious as to how women were being treated in a very traditional Muslim country that has been at war for so very long. Nadia Hashimi has an amazing talent for showing the gamet of life of women in her home country.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell?

When Shaqiba and her father buried their family. She and her father were very much alike. They truly were the image of Afghanistan.

Which scene was your favorite?

at the end, When Rahima changed into boy's clothing and left for the Women's Shelter. I could feel the exhilaration and the fear within her. I felt so proud of her.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I cried when Rahima's son died with her and when her husband beat her, every time.

Any additional comments?

Ms Hashimi is a gifted writer. I hope this only the first of many excellent novels!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very enjoyable

great story, read very well. I really enjoyed this story and the parallel lives of the main characters.