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A PURE HEART by Rajia Hassib Kirkus Star


by Rajia Hassib

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-525-56005-0
Publisher: Viking

Her sister’s death at the hands of a suicide bomber leads Rose Gubran to piece together a complex portrait of a sibling whose inner motivations remained largely in the shadows.

The Arab Spring that shook Egypt in 2011 left Rose, an ambitious Egyptologist, largely unscathed. After all, she followed her American journalist husband back to the United States just months before history turned. But her sister, Gameela, who gets swept up in the revolutionary fervor, does not have the same luck. Instead, years later, Gameela is dead, the unfortunate victim of a suicide bombing. Rose is wracked by guilt: She believes she could have done more to salvage her frayed bonds with her sister. Worse, Rose worries that her husband’s newspaper profile of a suspected sympathizer of the Muslim Brotherhood might have indirectly contributed to Gameela’s death. Egyptian mythology deifies the goddess Isis, who helps resurrect Osiris, the god of the underworld, after he is killed. Rose is the modern-day equivalent of Isis, convinced that she can imagine Gameela whole again. Hassib (In the Language of Miracles, 2015) expertly follows the bread crumbs as Rose assembles a fractured picture of the sister she never knew. Gameela’s motivation to lean on religion as a succor remains mostly opaque till the very end. Nevertheless, the story fluidly explores how even seismic historical events can mix with everyday emotions such as sibling rivalry and insecurity to concoct a potent brew. “Our lives here are about politics. And religion. Every single day....We’re not all American, Rose,” Gameela reminds her sister. “Some of us don’t have the luxury of a normal life.”

A devastating definition of the new normal in which revolution does not always deliver real power to institute change.