Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie published in 2017.
“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 father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed. Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to—or defy.”
I’m not going to lie—the reason I picked up this book in the first place is because the cover looks really cool. So I guess I literally judged a book by its cover.
I was so torn and almost borderline confused while I was reading this. There were some parts that were so eloquently written, yet I had to force myself to get through some other parts. In Home Fire, the perspective is split into five parts; Isma, Aneeka and Parviaz Pasha, as well as Karamat and Eamonn Lone. The first three characters are siblings and the last two are father and son, the father in this relationship being new home secretary of Great Britain. His son, Eamonn, ends up falling in love with Aneeka, the twin sister to Parviaz and daughter of Adil, two British-Pakistani men turned radical terrorists. Here Eamonn is torn between his budding infatuation with Aneeka and his valued trust with his father. After Parviaz is killed while trying to come back to Britain, the tensions grow between the Pasha and Lone families, especially considering Eamonn has decided to side with Aneeka and her fight to bring her brothers body back home. There’s more to the plot of this book, but I couldn’t possibly explain it all without getting a migraine.
The main thing that bothered me about this book was the characters. I found the majority of the characters very unlikeable; in fact, the only characters that were actually half decent were Isma and Parviaz. Yet these characters were either not heavily featured or killed off, respectively. Aneeka was whiny and annoying, leading all her actions by her heart, not her head. This normally would be endearing, but her manipulative personality left much to be desired. Eamonn is a weak-willed young man ran by his genitals, so when the beautiful Aneeka shows the slightest of interest in him, all his morals are out the window. He possesses an almost obsessive desire over the nineteen-year-old girl, and even when he finds out that she only used him to get to his father in hopes of helping her estranged brother, he chooses to stay with her. Finally, his father Karamat Lone is quite the opposite of his son, yet this still doesn’t allow me to like him. His character is cold-hearted and stoic towards his family and his old faith. It is mentioned that he must maintain these qualities in order to survive in the political world, he does not really show any redeeming qualities in his private life. The toxic relationship of Aneeka and Eamonn overshadows how much I dislike Karamat though, so he gets a break here.
I don’t mean to focus on the negative. There were parts of this book that I found very interesting and enjoyed quite a bit. I loved following Parvaiz during his part, as the reader witnessed him being recruited for this terrorist group, adjusting to his new life in Raqqa, and slowly realizing that he regretted his decision while trying to escape back to Britain. His emotions of desperately wanting to connect to the father he never knew, which lead to disgust in what he had signed up for was brilliantly described. This portrayed the tragic endeavours of many young boys that are brainwashed into joining terrorist groups, and it was refreshing to represent the supposed “enemy” as the victim of a vicious system. I also found Aneeka’s part interesting, not for its content but how it was formatted. Instead of normally narrated chapters, the reader experienced her point of view in the form of hashtags, online articles and tweets about her current situation. This was a fascinating choice of style for her part, and it created some much-needed variety halfway through the novel.
This review is going to be slightly shorter than my others, mainly because I can’t think of much to say about this book. I really didn’t hate it, but I also did not love it. It wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, but it is definitely not the best. Quite average, nothing I would either recommend or discourage anyone from reading. Although overall, it was kind of disappointing, because based on the summary when I first picked it up, I thought it has a lot of potentials to be a really thought-provoking and entertaining story. I just don’t believe the author executed it as well as it could have been.