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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

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

  • A captivating novel about family, love, and home.

  • - Laila Lalami, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist The Moor's Account

  • Full of intelligent reflections about exile, this moving novel about two Egyptian sisters-one in New York, the other in Cairo-carefully dramatizes the curdling of individual dreams in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. - Karan Mahajan, author of National Book Award finalist The Association of Small Bombs

  • A multifaceted look at the complicated legacies of identity, religion, and politics in Egypt after the Arab Spring emerges. Even the story of the suicide bomber is given careful consideration in this enlightening, heartrending novel. - Booklist (starred review)

  • [A Pure Heart] fluidly explores how even seismic historical events can mix with everyday emotions such as sibling rivalry and insecurity to concoct a potent brew. . . . A devastating definition of the new normal in which revolution does not always deliver real power to institute change. - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • A stunner of a book. Weaving through the lives of two sisters split by destiny, Hassib's latest novel is a story of excavation: of countries and people. With the Egyptian revolution as backdrop, Hassib masterfully explores the loyalties, geographies and histories that can both partition and bind family. - Hala Alyan, author of Dayton Literary Peace Prize and Arab American Book Award winner Salt Houses

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