The Pearl That Broke Its Shell: A Novel (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

If you enjoy Khaled Hosseini, read this book! When Rahima is 9 years old in Kabul, her parents decide to dress her as a boy and treat her as a son to make it easier on her family of 5 daughters. But at 13, her life is changed again when her father marries her off to a warlord and forces her to change back into a girl. After having the respect and praise of being a boy for years, how will Rahima adapt to being completely submissive as a woman in Kabul again? Will the story of her ancestor Shekiba, a woman who also dressed as a man to survive, help Rahima figure out her own destiny? — Jess Elder


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

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

About the Author

Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. In 2002, Nadia made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents. She is a pediatrician and lives with her family in the Washington, DC, suburbs. She is the author of three books for adults, as well as the middle grade novels One Half from the East and The Sky at Our Feet. Visit her online at

Praise For…

“Nadia Hashimi has written, first and foremost, a tender and beautiful family story. Her always engaging multigenerational tale is a portrait of Afghanistan in all of its perplexing, enigmatic glory, and a mirror into the still ongoing struggles of Afghan women.”
— Khaled Hosseini, author of And the Mountains Echoed and The Kite Runner

“A fascinating look at the unspoken lives of Afghani women, separated by generations and miles, yet achingly similar. This is a story to transport you and make you think.”
— Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times bestselling author of Secret Daughter

“Hashimi weaves together two equally engrossing stories in her epic, spellbinding debut.”
Booklist (starred review)

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062244765
ISBN-10: 0062244760
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 6th, 2015
Pages: 480
Language: English