A true literary artist, Shamsie has written another lushly detailed and impassioned narrative. Her novel is a love song
in homage to London’s Pakistani community. After Isma’s interrogation at Heathrow Airport, her sister, Aneeka, fanatically texts and phones. After arriving in Northampton and travelling to Amherst for a PhD program, Isma
will immerse herself in academic life. At her favorite café, she meets handsome Eamonn, the son of British Home Secretary Karamat Lone, who has garnered a reputation as a lone crusader taking on the backwardness of British Muslims.
Isma and Eamonn’s sudden meeting is the first twist in a book that grabs us from the beginning. Isma is haunted by the actions of her brother, Parvaiz Pasha. She hasn’t been in contact with him since
he called to tell her the decision he’d made for his life. Isma truly, purely misses her brother, the “terrorist son of a terrorist father.” It was
to Parvaiz that Aneeka mostly talked about her griefs and worries; Isma was the sister
to whom he came for consolation.
Isma’s first impression of Eamonn is that he's a devoted and indulgent practical-joker, so at odds of Isma’s image of the man that she sometimes wonders
it's an “elaborate fiction.” Eammon is offended when Isma tells him that her father died while being taken to Guantanamo. Eamonn can’t shake
his distaste at Isma’s past, a terrible secret and aphrodisiac that has gained potency over the years. Still, Eammon is undeniably drawn to Isma.
He admires her wit and her intellectual prowess. Back in London, however, he falls for Aneeka, who wants help bringing Parvais back from Raqqa. At first Eammon is adamant at not getting caught up in the feud between sisters and their mission. But as he falls deeper in love with Aneeka, he also falls for her secrets and strangeness,
for her mood swings as well as her “sheer inconvenience.” In Eamonn’s mind, Parvaiz is a slippery ghost. As Eamonn imagines walking with Aneeka, he tries to bury his feelings. He dreads the inevitable confrontation with the Home Secretary, who has spent a career being lionized for his passionate truth-telling and his anti-mmigrant attitudes.
In Shamsie’s modern retelling of Antigone, everything is seen through the eyes and lives of others. This story
also examines how other relationships define love and loss. Can we understand the toils of Isma and Aneeka,
both swept up by their father’s choices? Or Parvaiz, who struggles to break out from the clutches of manipulative Farooq? Desperate to shake free of the demons of Raqqa, Parvaiz sees the tragedy of terrorism through different eyes. Can we understand this pattern of thinking? Would we actually think differently coming from the same life-circumstances as Isma and Aneeka?
Caught between cultures and filled with rage, Parvaiz becomes the sacrificial lamb.
His sisters are proof that it is not always possible to restore the bonds of family after such terrible betrayal. Perhaps the most intense part of the novel is Parvaiz’s arrival in Raqqa.
As his stomach contracts with excitement and terror, he revels in being employed as a video assistant for ISIS.
He fails to realize that Farooq has seduced him with stories of his father, for whom he was not a “footloose boy or feckless husband” but a man of courage who fought injustice. Despite Parvaiz’s disquiet at the spiked heads, veiled women, and endless camaraderie of the men slumped in beanbags promising a better world, there’s a sense that Parvaiz will shift his identity to please those around him.
Narrated in five distinct voices, Home Fire's two sisters grow up under the specter of terrorism while they do battle with identity, loyalty and duty. The novel speeds up in the final sections when Aneeka, Isma, and Eamonn are caught between impossible choices and defiant public opinion. While Karamat
learns some tough lessons, Parvaiz is unable to break out of the currents of history or free himself of the demons attached to his heels. Shamsie
plumbs this unfulfilled sadness floating below gray London skies and colorful Karachi, a city
ever on the edge of riot and despair.