Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)
Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist fatherr he never knew. When Parvaiz surfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.
Then handsome, charismatic Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined.
Internationally acclaimed for her riveting and ambitiously imagined novels, here Kamila Shamsie explores how secrets and family loyalty can both bind lives together and threaten to spin them out of control. Searing and suspenseful, Home Fire asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?
Ok, I’m going to start this review by saying that this is a current-day adaptation of Antigone by Sophocles. I’m going to start this way because I somehow had no idea that was the case until after I finished it and was doing research online (a few other members of my book club totally missed this as well). In hindsight, I felt a bit more forgiving to some aspects of the plot that I found quirky, knowing now that it was inspired to follow the plot of Antigone.
However, that did not make up for the other shortcomings I felt the book had in terms of character development. I was unprepared for the structure of the novel – it is split into five sections and each section follows a different character. This form seemed like a cop out – the easy way to tell this story. Unfortunately, my favorite character was the first, Isma. Isma is smart and complex – her story intrigued me. When Shamsie switched away from her perspective, I was disappointed. When she never returned to her perspective, I was annoyed.
The story Shamsie dares to tell is a bold one – she attempts to explain how a young man like Parvaiz can get so wrapped up in this terrifying mission that he ends up throwing away his future, and those of his sisters, to join them in Syria. The risk in telling this story is that Shamsie may come off as somewhat sympathetic to terrorists (and we, at book club, agreed that she somewhat does, though we were not sure what the counterbalance for that would be).
I really disliked most of the other characters, especially Eamonn and Aneeka. I would have far preferred the novel to be about how Isma was affected by the actions of her brother and sister. However, there were a few brilliant chapters in between and, on the whole, I didn’t dislike reading this book. I found the subject matter fascinating and I was desperate to know how it would resolve itself. And I was completely stunned by the final scene. But I was frustrated when I finished – I felt Shamsie missed her opportunity to truly reinvent the way this story is normally told.
If you’ve read this one, let me know! I’d love to discuss further but don’t want to spoil some aspects of the plot.
Interested in this book? Buy it on Amazon here or pick it up from your local bookstore!