THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL by Nadia Hashimi
Two women who were “bocha posh” in their youth are the two heroines of this double story. Rahima is the modern girl who is turned into a boy in order for her family to survive in a patriarchal society where girls/women are forced into the extreme background of life. Shekiba (the great-great-grandmother of Rahima) becomes “bacha posh” because of the deaths of her immediate family and the shunning of her extended family.
Both women live in a very structured Aghan society that does not permit females to participate in society. The intertwined tales follow the women throughout their lives as they transition from girl to “boy” and then back to girl. The second transition is the most difficult as they must adjust from relative freedom to a rigidly obedient life under the complete domination of both males and the older women who can make their lives miserable or pleasant.
Traditional Afghan society is made very clear as we learn the intimate details of Rahima and Shekiba’s lives. Both women make choices that determine their fates as well as the fates of those they love or simply grow to know.
The character who connects the two women is Shaima, Rahima’s aunt, who tells the story of Shekiba in order to encourage Rahima to live her life as fully as possible.
Book groups will ponder the fate of the many women who people the book and find much to discuss – husbands, education, the position of women, ethical behavior, the importance of family and, of course, the oddity of “bacha posh” itself.
5 of 5 stars