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Book Review: Home Fire, thought-provoking read that questions morality

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The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, April 5, 2018  /  10:10 am
Book Review: Home Fire, thought-provoking read that questions morality

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (JP/Devina Heriyanto)

We currently live in a turbulent world, one filled with hate and fear that are ignited through mass media and the internet. Racism, prejudice and paranoia are common among people. These are caused by a number of reasons: one of them could be the news that is all over the television --bombings, terrorist attacks and wars in the Middle East. This is more than enough to cause insecurity and fear even to those living far away. Another reason could be the spread of hate speech by many people around the country, causing confusion and mistrust.  

Home Fire, written by Kamila Shamsie, is a book that reflects entirely on what is currently happening in the world. A story about Islamophobia and terrorism, it touches many people because it is relatable and brutally true. This book gives readers an exclusive perspective of the events that tend to happen in the news. The plot parallels the story of Antigone, a tragic Greek story that has no happy ending.

The book is divided into five parts, using a different character’s perspective for each part. The main characters of this book are three siblings. The characters’ fate is intertwined and that is a factor that makes this story interesting.

The first part is about Isma, a Muslim girl who decides to get her life back. She lost her father, who was a jihadist, leaving her family under constant surveillance. When her mother dies, she has to take care of her younger twin siblings. However, while her headstrong sister steps up in life, her younger brother gets radicalized and becomes a jihadist.

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Isma is an example of a conservative Muslim woman. With a strong Muslim background and good religious habits, she tries to fit in. However, Isma is not your stereotypical Muslim. She is smart and is seeking to get a degree at a good university. This book emphasizes that almost none of the stereotypes created by Islamophobia are true.

The rest of the story then falls into place. Isma meets Eamonn whose father happens to be a powerful political figure. While they once had the same religious background, his father tries his best to break away from it.

I wouldn’t want to spoil much about the story, but the mood of the book shifts through every part. There is an entire part dedicated to romance, another about jihadist recruitment and another from a bystander’s point of view who only wants to do the best for his country. The book first starts out quite slow, but you will get twist after twist in what seems like a shocking and unexpected ending.

How far would you go for the person you love? That is the question asked throughout the book. Even with obstacles like religion, time and politics, would a person still be willing to sacrifice for the person they truly love? This book does not only touch on negative themes like prejudice and paranoia, it also touches on themes about love. Love between siblings, between family and between lovers -- it is all there in this book.

Shamsie is a British Pakistani novelist who can identify with her characters. I suppose it is easier to write about characters that are close to home. She has written books that have been shortlisted and long-listed for famous awards. Home Fire is her latest one, and it has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2017.

To conclude my review, this book contains a lot of touchy topics including religion and politics that might not be suitable for everyone. Nonetheless, Home Fire is a very good read and is generally enjoyable. I would recommend this book to anyone. (ely/wng)