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A Pure Heart

Rajia Hassib

6 Reviews

Rated 0

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

A powerful novel about two Egyptian sisters--their divergent fates and the secrets of one family

'EXQUISITE' Vanity Fair




Sisters Rose and Gameela Gubran could not have been more different. Rose, an Egyptologist, married an American journalist and immigrated to New York City, where she works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gameela, a devout Muslim since her teenage years, stayed in Cairo. During the aftermath of Egypt's revolution, Gameela is killed in a suicide bombing. When Rose returns to Egypt after the bombing, she sifts through the artifacts Gameela left behind, desperate to understand how her sister came to die, and who she truly was. Soon, Rose realizes that Gameela has left many questions unanswered. Why had she quit her job just a few months before her death and not told her family? Who was she romantically involved with? And how did the religious Gameela manage to keep so many secrets?

Rich in depth and feeling, A Pure Heart is a brilliant portrait of two Muslim women in the twenty-first century, and the decisions they make in work and love that determine their destinies. As Rose is struggling to reconcile her identities as an Egyptian and as a new American, she investigates Gameela's devotion to her religion and her country. The more Rose uncovers about her sister's life, the more she must reconcile their two fates, their inextricable bond as sisters, and who should and should not be held responsible for Gameela's death.

Rajia Hassib's A Pure Heart is a stirring and deeply textured novel that asks what it means to forgive, and considers how faith, family, and love can unite and divide us.

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Praise for A Pure Heart

  • Exquisite. . . . does a remarkable job of bringing troubling realities to light, and life. - Vanity Fair

  • A timely, sweeping tale that examines the intersection of fate and choice, the pull of culture and identity, family and love . . . Beautifully written. - Boston Globe

  • Hassib is a perceptive writer with a real understanding of how people act - not how they ought to act . . . a novel that's as honest as it is engrossing. - NPR

  • Hassib . . . articulates the full-bodied chorus of Egypt's voices . . . dismantling stereotypes of her country and culture. In so doing she exposes mankind's best and worst qualities, our universalities and differences, illuminating all the while the myriad ways in which a heart can be pure. - New York Times

  • Hassib's novel shines as one of the finest explorations of identity, religion, and culture in modern American literature. Her background leaves her particularly well situated to develop these themes . . . brilliantly illuminates the complications of our world: the clash of religious beliefs, the uneven division of wealth, our classist snobbery, the failure of our best intentions. Yet the story is not simply an examination of problems. It is also a fervent illustration of the strength and beauty of familial bonds, ties that persist even after death. - Southern Literary Review

  • A profound and deeply affecting examination of fate and free will, family and identity, sin and redemption, and the unique bond between sisters. - Buzzfeed, 'Summer Books to Be Excited About'

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