The last page of Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie hit me like a punch in the stomach. I actually had a physical reaction to the story’s ending that left me doubled over.
The story is told in five sections and follows three siblings, Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz.
It begins with Isma missing a plane because of a lengthy and intensive interrogation by airport authorities who knew that her deceased father had been a Jihadi terrorist. After her mother’s death Isma had given up her regular life to bring up her younger brother and sister in London but once they were grown, was eager to recommence her studies in the USA.
Once in the USA Isma met and befriended Eamonn, despite recognising him as the son of the present British Home Secretary. Much to the disgust of the Muslim community in London, Eamonn’s father had renounced his religion for political success.
Isma had been on the verge of falling in love with Eamonn when they had a falling out over his father’s politics and although their friendship survived, Isma was disappointed to learn that Eamonn did not return her feelings.
In a gesture of kindness, Eamonn took Isma’s gift of M&Ms for her aunt back to the UK with him when he returned but instead of mailing them, Eamonn delivered the gift himself, unexpectedly meeting Isma’s beautiful younger sister Aneeka. They instantly fell in love, although their romance was not all it seemed.
Unbeknownst to Eamonn, Aneeka’s twin brother Parvaiz had been recruited by ISIS and was in Syria. The story showed Parvaiz being groomed and although I cannot condone his actions, this went a long way towards showing me how vulnerable people can be preyed upon and manipulated to become part of something terrible. Parvaiz soon realised he had made a terrible mistake and wanted to return home to the UK, Eamonn’s father had taken a very public and committed stance to deny British assistance to Parvaiz and other British Nationals who had become involved with ISIS, even after their deaths.
The book’s blurb advises that Home Fires is a retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone, however I am not familiar with that story and can only base this review on my own reactions to the contemporary story. Home Fires raised some difficult questions about what it is to be Muslim in a western society and highlighted the issue of all Muslims having been overshadowed in the public’s opinions by the actions of terrorists. The story lagged a little through the middle but the ending was extraordinarily powerful. I intend to look out for Kamila Shamsie’s previous novels and for whatever she writes in future.