Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: Home Fire

Isma Pasha has always cared for her younger siblings Aneeka and Parvaiz. Their father was never around and their mother died when the twins were still young. Now she finally has the chance to leave England and live her own life. She accepts an invitation to work and study at an American university. But she can't stop worrying about her sister and brother. Parvaiz has disappeared, determined to find the truth about his father's life as a jihadist and his death. Aneeka is dating a man who might break her heart or save her whole family.

Home Fire is a story told from alternating perspectives. We start with Isma as she embarks on a new adventure in the US and encounters all the difficulties that Muslim women experience. We meet Eamonn, with his easy charm and family influence, and spend time with the twins Aneeka and Parvaiz as they discover just how strong their bond is and how far they would go for the other.

The discerning reader will quickly realize that this is an updated version of the story of Antigone. The author sticks closely to the story in many senses, which makes sense when you consider the timeless themes of love, loyalty, and sacrifice. But bringing it into the 21st century and focusing it on a Muslim family makes the tale incredibly resonant. The novel opens with Isma's airport interrogation as she travels to her new home and this thread takes us all the way through the book--what is it like to live each day when you are seen as "other," when you are the person who will be affected by new laws?

Kamila Shamsie is a wonderful writer and I am happy to have read one of her books. Home Fire is catapulting her into some serious literary attention, which is entirely earned. It is a testament to Shamsie's writing that even a reader who knows what happens in the ancient Greek story will find themselves anxiously flipping pages because they truly care about these characters and want to know if they can somehow avoid a tragic ending.

Home Fire
By Kamila Shamsie
Riverhead Books August 2017
276 pages
From the library


  1. I loved this book, too. Alas, since I hadn’t read Antigone since I was 15, it didn’t at all click with me that she used that play as a framework for her novel. Then I started reading reviews that mention that and it was an a-ha moment.