Book Review: A Pure Heart by Rajia Hassib

This is the story of two sisters, Rose and Gameela, living in an upper class neighborhood in Cairo. Rose is an archeologist, and her religion is not something that she ponders about. Her family is pretty secular and no one wears the hijab. When Gameela starts wearing a headscarf and taking a strict position in religion, tension with her family starts and particularly with Rose. Things just get worse when Rose decides to marry an American journalist, and the sisters stop talking all together. But Gameela is killed in a terrorist attack and Rose is determined to find out what happened. Was her sister a fundamentalist?

This novel explores so many different themes: colonialism, classism, role of religion in ethics and moral, identity and politics. I particularly loved how the author showed religion affiliation as fluid; like a wave, sometimes we let it put as in a straitjacket and take over our daily lives, give meaning to our day to day and sometimes we use it as a moral compass but set rituals aside. Sometimes it defines us and sometimes it is hidden in our hearts. And like a wave, it keeps taking us up and down through our lives.

I loved this book so much I’ll be looking for her debut novel to start soon.


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