Book Review: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @zaralibrary

bk - home fire


Category: General Fiction
Author: Kamila Shamsie
Format: Advanced Reading Copy (ARC), 276 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Books
ISBN: 978-0-7352-1768-3
Pub Date: August 15, 2017


Summary from Publisher:

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. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined, in this searing novel that asks: What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?

  • From Goodreads

Book Review:

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie is an investigation into the political and emotional ramification of terrorism at the personal level—what it means to be directly influenced and connected to it—by history, by bloodline, by political stance.

It focuses on the Pasha family, siblings whose lives are charged with the intensity of an emotionally ever-present, yet absent father, Adil Pasha, a known jihadist by the British government who fought with jihadi groups in Bosnia and Chechnya in the 1990’s and then travelled to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban.

The knowledge of this crime has followed and burdened the lives of the Pasha family: Isma, the eldest daughter left to the responsibility of parenting her siblings after the absence of their father and the death of their mother; Aneeka, the passionate beauty whose deep connection with her twin, Parvaiz, compels her to tantrums and deceit; and Parvaiz, in lacking a father-figure clings to the haunting memory of his father’s extremist beliefs and believed martyrdom.

Their futures stained with the political crimes of their missing father, compel them in vastly different directions, which eventually through plot and what seems like serendipity, connect them with a powerful political figure of their past, Karamat Lone, Home Secretary of the British government and a progressive Muslim, along with his beloved son, Eammon.

The narrative of the novel reveals the internal landscape of its characters, how asserting and/or denying and/or identifying as a Muslim in modern day London and Afghanistan has with it complexities amidst the geo-political climate of the world as well as being burdened with the knowledge of a relative whose extremist values and jihadist motivations and actions have scarred his family, even years after his own death.

The plot, though deceptively tranquil at the beginning, even almost hopeful—quickly manifests into manipulative relationships where the instigator eventually coerces the victim to do things that will make him feel uncomfortable or put his life at risk. The tension in the book is in the injustice of these actions, which render its victims almost helpless to act autonomously.

The characters, though well developed and clearly depicted, have in them an emotional weakness to be easily persuaded, to act abruptly and with passion, as well as to respond in extremity, which can only lead to problematic situations.

The thematic thread in the book is obvious in its extremism—both in acts of terror, political strategy, and relationship. But, its success is in how it portrays its characters’ development—how one might move from a life of routine and social norms to the mind-altering, psychological framework of extremist beliefs and jihadist commitment and crime through a myriad of insecurities, manipulation, and time.

Regardless, the author is able to put a human face to the elusive beast of terror and share a narrative that personally empathizes with those who are directly affected by the cause and affect of its destruction, both socially, politically, and emotionally.


Characters: 3.5 stars
Plot: 3.5 stars
Language/Narrative: 3.5 stars
Dialogue: 4 stars
Pacing: 3.5 stars
Cover Design: 3 stars


Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Penguin Random House Canada on behalf of Riverhead Books for providing me with an advanced reading copy (ARC) of Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie in exchange for an honest and timely review.


About the Author:

author - kamila shamsie

Kamila Shamsie was born in 1973 in Karachi, where she grew up. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY and an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. While at the University of Massachusetts she wrote In The City By The Sea , published by Granta Books UK in 1998. This first novel was shortlisted for the John Llewelyn Rhys Award in the UK, and Shamsie received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literature in Pakistan in 1999. Her 2000 novel Salt and Saffron led to Shamsie’s selection as one of Orange’s “21 Writers of the 21st Century.” With her third novel, Kartography , Shamsie was again shortlisted for the John Llewelyn Rhys award in the UK. Both Kartography and her next novel, Broken Verses , won the Patras Bokhari Award from the Academy of Letters in Pakistan. Burnt Shadows, Shamsie’s fifth novel, has been longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Her books have been translated into a number of languages.

Shamsie is the daughter of literary critic and writer Muneeza Shamsie, the niece of celebrated Indian novelist Attia Hosain, and the granddaughter of the memoirist Begum Jahanara Habibullah. A reviewer and columnist, primarily for the Guardian, Shamsie has been a judge for several literary awards including The Orange Award for New Writing and The Guardian First Book Award. She also sits on the advisory board of the Index on Censorship.

For years Shamsie spent equal amounts of time in London and Karachi, while also occasionally teaching creative writing at Hamilton College in New York State. She now lives primarily in London.

  • From Goodreads


You may connect with the author on Twitter and Goodreads.


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Author: zaraalexis

Writer. Bibliotaphe. Fountain Pen & Stationery Addict. Lipstick Junkie. Justice Advocate. Wife. Mother. Warrior.

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