Rating: 4 / 5
As you can see, my copy of HOME FIRE by Kamila Shamsie has been very well broken in (it arrived pretty beat up from a used book distributor). I was a little bit disappointed in the condition when it arrived, but once I started reading the book I was completely enthralled by the story and really just didn’t care anymore!
HOME FIRE by Kamila Shamsie is a book that centers on a small family of three siblings. They are Pakistani immigrants to London with Muslim religious roots. Their jihadist father died in prison and they lose both their mother and grandmother very close together when they are still very young.
The story begins with the oldest sister Isma who has raised her twin younger siblings to adulthood and has now left to study in the U.S. Isma’s sister Aneeka remains in London studying law. Aneeka’s twin brother Parvaiz has left London, sucked into the jihadist world his father was once part of.
Isma and Aneeka meet Eamonn, the son of a high level politician who may have connections needed to help Isma and Aneeka save their brother. Eamonn and his family struggle with their own Muslim roots and what that means for his father’s political career. His father has distanced himself from his faith for the sake of his career, but Eamonn is asking for help to support Isma and Aneeka in their efforts to bring their brother home.
The book is told from varying points of views as the story unfolds. We learn more about Parvaiz and how he is drawn into the world of his father. Isma and Aneeka both love their brother, but their relationship is strained as each deals with love and loyalty differently.
Mulitple POV novels can be a bit hit or miss for me, but I thought it generally worked for this story as way to gradually bring new information to light. In the end there were some characters such as Isma that I wished I could have heard from again later in the story.
I knew going in that HOME FIRE is a modern day retelling of the Antigone myth, but I have to admit that it did take a bit of research to remind me of the original story. I don’t think knowledge of the myth is necessary to appreciate what the author has done in this book (and knowing the myth will give spoilers for the plot of this retelling).
This book was really well written and easy to read in that sense, but heavy and heartbreakingly difficult to read in another. The glimpses of Parvaiz’s time with the jihadists includes trigger warnings for torture and violence. It is a very powerful story and extremely well done and I’m glad I picked this as my read for the Muslim Author prompt for the Reading Women Podcast’s birthday Bingo board.