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Authors: Lucy Ferriss

A Sister to Honor

BOOK: A Sister to Honor
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The Lost Daughter

“An unflinching study of parenthood . . . Convincing, Franzen-style realism . . . A powerful domestic novel.”

—Kirkus Reviews

The Lost Daughter
delivers the goods: flawed but sympathetic characters and a plot that will keep readers turning the pages voraciously. From its harrowing prologue to its final sentences, I was emotionally engaged with this fine novel. Ferriss is a masterful storyteller.”

New York Times
bestselling author Wally Lamb

“[A] complex, engaging novel about guilt, secrecy, and the mysteries of family. Lucy Ferriss is a courageous and thought-provoking writer.”

New York Times
bestselling author Tom Perrotta

“This achingly beautiful novel about marriage and love, pulsing with complex life, is the work of a master American realist, up there with Richard Yates or anyone else. With spellbinding attentiveness and intimacy it explores what a husband and wife can be sure they know about each other but also, in prose wearing night-vision glasses, the inaccessible places where the hidden past lies threateningly coiled, and which love must also find a way to reach.”

—Francisco Goldman, author of
Say Her Name

“In the same way that Judi Dench won an Oscar in 1999 for eight minutes of screen time in
Shakespeare in Love
, Ms. Ferriss's prologue is a doozy at a mere eleven pages . . . [Ferriss] has a real knack for creating dramatic tension.”

—The New York Times

“An emotionally riveting story . . . Ferriss moves the plot along at a fast clip, deftly weaving together recollections of the past and, as the disturbing truth of Brooke's secret slowly emerges, the present. All the while, Ferriss infuses the story with a heady dose of realism . . .
The Lost Daughter
manages to be a romantic family novel with a palpable atmosphere of impending calamity.”


“A compelling story.”

—St. Louis Post-Dispatch


“Tough, grave, and sweet . . . a book that will stay with me for a long time.”

—Lee Smith

“Ferriss's strength as an author is her uncanny ability to layer so many emotions in her fiction.”

—St. Paul Pioneer Press

“Beautiful . . . sympathetic, well-defined characters.”

—The Advocate

“Sad and soaring and sexy . . . lyrical, honest prose.”

—Susan Straight, author of
Between Heaven and Here

“Bittersweet but often laugh-out-loud funny.”

—Foreword Reviews

“Sharp humor and dazzling writing . . . one of the best books of the year, period.”

—St. Louis Riverfront Times

“Thought-provoking and disturbing . . . subtle and original.”

—Contra Costa Times

“If in this novel Ferriss makes you think, she will also make you feel.”

—Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“A gripping coming-of-age story . . . dense and richly evocative.”

—The Washington Times

“A complex, satisfying work.”


“A beautiful novel about family and love, from one of the best writers around.”

—Oscar Hijuelos, author of
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

“Tight, cleanly structured, and polished . . . The author's voice is intelligent and her analysis shrewd . . . Interiors—the parts that matter—are brilliantly drawn, and the prose itself is often superb.”

—St. Louis Post-Dispatch




Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

A Penguin Random House Company

This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.

Copyright © 2015 by Lucy Ferriss.

“Readers Guide” copyright © 2015 by Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

BERKLEY® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-16904-3

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

A sister to honor / Lucy Ferriss.—Berkley trade paperback edition.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-425-27640-2 (softcover)

1. Brothers and sisters—Fiction. 2. Muslim women—United States—Social life and customs—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3556.E754S56 2015




Berkley trade paperback edition / January 2015

Cover design by Lesley Worrell.

Cover photo by Vanessa Skotnitsky /

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


For the women of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Woman is the lamp of the family.



I am deeply grateful to the entire Kakakhel family, but especially Shazia Sadaf, without whose hospitality, generosity, and wealth of sympathy this book could not have been written. Others in Pakistan were equally gracious and helpful in breathing life into both characters and story: Yawar Mumtaz and his family, the Ashfaq Chaudhry family, Aslam Khan, Tahir Malik, Zoia Tariq, Hina Jilani, Mohibullah Khan, and the faculty and students of the University of Peshawar all devoted time, energy, and insight to welcoming a stranger to their home and helping her understand its customs and challenges. I am grateful to Trinity College for a sabbatical and research funds that allowed me to travel to Pakistan. Paul Assaiante provided valuable expertise in competitive squash. For reading countless drafts and never giving up on me, I have the honor of thanking three irreplaceable editors: Jackie Cantor, Al Zuckerman, and Ann Patty. Amy Schneider's sharp eye brought the manuscript into focus, and the art department at Berkley rose beautifully to the occasion. Thanks to Eric Goodman for reading an early draft, and to Don Moon, as always, for his unflagging patience, honesty, and encouragement at every step along the winding path.

For background on Pashtun culture, the history of honor violence, and the changing roles of women in Islam and in Pakistan, I consulted perhaps three dozen volumes. Especially helpful were Sadaf Ahmad's
Pakistani Women
, Jan Goodwin's
Price of Honor
, Benedicte Grima's
Secrets from the Field
, Amir Jafri's
Honour Killing
, and Kathleen Jamie's
Among Muslims
. Among a plethora of fine novels by Pakistani authors, Jamil Ahmad's
The Wandering Falcon,
Nadeem Aslam's
Maps for Lost Lovers
, and Uzma Aslam Khan's
were particularly evocative. Those interested in ongoing advocacy for women in Pakistan may wish to consult AURAT,; or Women Living Under Muslim Laws,


Praise for the novels of Lucy Ferriss

Also by Lucy Ferriss

Title Page





Book One






















Book Two












Readers Guide


n the valley below Farishta's house, the mulberry trees clung fast to their leaves. When the sun rose over the eastern hills they looked plated in gold; but as the wind lifted the dry leaves, they whispered like yellow-haired girls sharing secrets. Seated in a circle in the warm sun, the village women pulled stripped branches from the stacks piled up during the monsoon pruning. From these they made baskets they would use in the spring, when the trees had returned to flower and to fruit and the dead leaves had scattered in the tall grass.

Farishta was looking out from the
, the main room of the house. Her stepson Khalid lay sleeping on a charpoy, his injured arm dangling. His breath seemed to catch in his adenoids with a sound that gave her a prick of irritation, at which she felt ashamed. Soon her girls would be home from school; her husband, Tofan, would take time from overseeing the harvest to fetch them and check quickly on Khalid, and then he would be off again. At that point Khalid might wake. He would take from her a lunch of chicken wings and rice. He would ask where his father was.

Slowly she turned from the window, knelt by the charpoy, and touched her palm to his forehead. It had gone clammy; the fever had broken. Tonight, perhaps, he would haul himself from the bed and make his way into the village, to the Internet café, where he drank tea and shouted at whatever political news he could find on the flat screens they lined up along the wall. Farishta didn't like to admit how much easier she breathed when he was out of the house.

She stood, adjusting her dupatta. She was a compact woman, of middling height, but her firstborn son, Shahid, stood head and shoulders above her, and she was now eye to eye with her thirteen-year-old, Sobia. Even Afia, once the smallest and frailest of her children, could throw an arm around Farishta's shoulders. She smiled, thinking of Afia. Though Shahid still lit her heart brightest, Afia gave her the warmest hope. They were both half a world away, but not forever. In two months, there would be a wedding for Maryam, one of Tofan's cousins, and the women would all ask about Farishta's absent children. Afia, they would assure Farishta, would one day make a brilliant marriage—to a doctor in Islamabad, or a rising star in the army—and be one of the new women of Pakistan, bringing medical care to other wives and mothers while being one herself. If any female could manage such a thing with honor, it was Afia. As to Shahid . . . Farishta's eyes burned. He might not, she admitted to herself when she had moments alone, come back. In his letters, she could read the truth: He was becoming part of the West, comfortable among its gleaming towers and atomized citizens. Her husband, Tofan, still spoke of Shahid's returning with his business skills to help Khalid take over the farm. But that was a fantasy. Khalid would have the farm to himself, and he would fill it with his jihadi friends, and Farishta's old age, her daughters gone, would be spent among sneering men not of her blood.

She tried not to feel this way. She had been trying, now, for almost twenty years.

In the kitchen the cook, Tayyab, was rattling pots. She went in to him. In the corner, her mother-in-law sat embroidering a shawl. Two years ago, the old woman had suffered a loss that had robbed her of speech, but her sight still seemed keen enough. Once, her needlework had been among the finest in the village. “Asalaam aleikum, Moray,” Farishta said, and touched her on the shoulder. The older woman looked up quickly, her eyes watchful as a bird's. “As soon as Sobia gets home,” Farishta said to the unspoken demand. “I will speak with her.”

Beneath his white beard, Tayyab harbored a knowing grin. How did servants come to know so much? He was hacking a chicken, the dull crunch of small bones beneath the cleaver. Tayyab's age was a mystery. He looked as old now as he had the day Farishta was brought to the Satar compound here in Nasirabad, almost two decades ago. Since then he had had five more children and lost the two daughters he had managed to marry off. Diabetes was affecting his eyes. But his face was as lean, lined, and sober as ever below his white cap. One of his remaining daughters, in the corner, was grinding cardamom, and the sweet tang filled the air.

Farishta took a wooden spoon and tasted the spicy sauce. Her eyes watered. “Good,” she said. “Khalid likes it spicy.”

She lifted a piece of warm bread from the rounds stacked by the stove and stepped out onto the veranda. The mulberry trees seemed to float on the million wings of their gold leaves. The breeze this time of year was luscious, free of the monsoon but not yet locked into the stony chill of winter. Far off, Tofan's cotton fields stood brown and stubbled, the harvest just finishing. She could hear the hum of the threshing machines. Every day for months now, her husband had risen before dawn and returned home only to fetch and deliver the girls. When Khalid, Shahid, and Afia had been young, she had done that duty herself; but things had changed. Her husband spoke of getting a driver for Sobia and little Muska. But today he would bring them home, and Farishta would draw Sobia into her bedroom alone and bring out the pair of bloodstained panties she had found stuffed under Sobia's mattress. The girl had become a woman. Patiently Farishta would explain to her—as she had explained to Afia seven years ago, as her own mother had explained to her when this awful-seeming thing suddenly happened—that a new and wonderful burden was laid upon her. From now on, Sobia would need to learn how to keep her chest covered with her dupatta. She would fast this year during Ramadan. She would no longer play in her old rough ways with her cousin Azlan. She would walk with a new, firm carriage, protecting the treasure of her womanhood.

Tayyab eased open the door from the kitchen. “Tea, memsahib?”

She smiled as he set down the tray—teapot, cup and saucer, biscuit, sugar bowl. Tayyab was fond of the niceties. He followed Farishta's gaze down the valley, to where the family's Suzuki van would be making its way from the school. “Only the little one left, now,” he said.

“Muska, yes. She'll be my last.” By which Farishta meant, and Tayyab understood, that she was done having babies. After three daughters, she was not confident of bringing forth another son. But Tofan had Khalid, and even though Shahid had been his brother's child, he treated him like a full son. Farishta had tried to do the same with Khalid, but her efforts had hurled themselves, always, against the mortar of his jealousy. Three years ago, when he'd gone to the mountains to join a new madrassa there, she had sighed with relief. But each time he came home, his beard was longer, his skin darker from the sun, his eyes more shifting and suspicious.

“You will be rich in grandchildren, memsahib,” said Tayyab. Farishta watched as he bowed, backed away, and returned to the kitchen. When she turned back to the valley, she saw the Suzuki chuffing up the hill.

Muska dashed out from the backseat, waving the drawings she had done at school. Farishta kissed her and sent her back to take a snack from Tayyab and to feed the goat kid she had been nursing. Sobia exited the car more slowly and walked as if she held a coin between her knees. Her downcast eyes looked bruised. Inwardly Farishta smiled. She remembered the time she had felt this way, unaccountably filthy and out of sorts, wads of tissue paper between her legs, hoping no one would detect that she was slowly bleeding to death. “Come talk to me, Soby,” Farishta said, holding out her hand.

“Something's wrong with her,” Tofan said. A big man, he had stepped out of the car and stood quaffing a Pepsi. He scarcely paused when he dropped the girls off, especially during harvest. “She has been sullen all the way home, and when I asked—” He stopped when he looked up and caught Farishta's glance. “Ah,” he said. Whether he understood what was happening with Sobia, what Farishta needed to do, was impossible to say. But he ducked his head back into the car, waved once, and drove off.

Farishta pulled the sack of sanitary napkins she had been saving from the bottom of the bathroom cupboard and went into the girls' room. Sobia was curled up on the bed, crying quietly. Farishta sat down and put a gentle hand on her daughter's hip. “Do you want to tell me?” she asked.

Sobia sniffled. Then she said, “I wish Afia was here.”

“Because you could talk to her.” The girl nodded. “About what you are experiencing.” Another nod. “Well, I miss her, too. But I will speak to you as I spoke to her, when she was just your age.” She reached over and tipped up her daughter's chin. The girl's eyes glowed with tears. Farishta felt a surge of pride. “You are bleeding,” she said.


“But you are not ill. There is nothing wrong with you.”

“But, Moray, it is awful, it comes—”

“You are bleeding because you are a woman now. It is a sadness and a happiness too. At Ramadan, this year, you will join the fast. Now I will show you how to use these,” she said, pulling out the pads, “and how to begin thinking of yourself. Because you will never be the same again.”

•   •   •

hat evening, as she changed Khalid's dressing, her husband slit open the mail. “A fortunate day,” Tofan exclaimed. Farishta felt Khalid's arm stiffen beneath her fingers. The
was spacious, filled with the warm light of the setting sun. Along the east face, they had shut the doors that turned the space, in summer, to an open-air living room. At the far end her husband's two living brothers were watching the news—another drone attack in the mountains, a gang murder in Sindh. When Farishta first came to Nasirabad, she had done the menu planning with her sister-in-law Mahzala, who was kind and protected her from Tofan's mother. Then Mahzala had died. That brother, Roshan, had never remarried; the other, Saqib, had never married at all. And with the change of customs, Farishta shared her meals more and more with her mother-in-law and her children, so that her husband and his brothers seemed to drift away even as they lounged on charpoys in the very next room.

“A fortunate day,” Tofan repeated, “when we have letters from both our wayfarers.”

Behind the door to the kitchen, Sobia had turned on the smaller television and was laughing at whatever comedy was being broadcast from Lahore. Despite their talk of womanliness this afternoon, despite her walking around the house as if she held a pot on her head, she sounded still like a little girl, giggling at sight gags. She was not a scholar, like Afia, who used to bend over her books by candlelight when there were rolling blackouts. Muska, at ten, was more studious than Sobia, but she was very shy. Only Afia had challenged her teachers. When Farishta had explained to Afia about menstruation, she had asked one question after another about female biology, until Farishta found herself stumped for answers.

She dampened a washcloth in the bowl she'd brought over and bathed Khalid's lacerated arm. “Indeed a fortunate day,” Khalid was saying to his father, “when Allah sees our house pure and upright.”

“And why shouldn't he?” Tofan said, opening the first letter. Farishta recognized the handwriting, Shahid's. She wanted to read it herself, to savor each word. But she kept washing the arm. “Here is your brother,” her husband went on, his eyes scanning the page, “with A's on two of his midterm exams, and he has won the individual prelims, in Boston. He says there is a coach there, at Harvard. Might help him get into the business school.” Tofan snorted. Folding up the letter, he flexed his eyebrows toward his older son. “You'll be needing someone who can keep a close eye on the accounting,” he said, “when the time comes for the farm—”

“Baba, please.” Khalid held up a pale hand. “Don't start on me about the farm. I know my responsibilities. There are things more important right now. There is a war, coming our way—”

“There is no war!” Tofan slapped the stack of letters onto the floor.

“Husband,” Farishta said under her breath.

Tofan took a deep breath. His mustache rose and fell as he tightened his upper lip. In the corner, the TV gabbled. “You want to be a soldier, join the military. That's a respectable career. Shahid is a great athlete now, but he also has a head for business. No law says the blood son must take over. If you're not up to the task—”

“Shahid will do it better,” Khalid said. Farishta finished the bandage just as he swung his legs over the edge of the charpoy and sat up, facing away from her. “Shahid does everything better except respect our ways.”

“And what slander,” said Tofan, “are you hinting at?”

Farishta sent him a warning glance:
Calm yourself. This is your son whom you love.
She felt a quiver of pleasure, knowing her husband cared for Shahid, but she wanted no quarrel between him and his firstborn. Khalid would only blame her.

“No need to hint,” said Khalid. “Not when he takes our sister to Amreeka to show her off, with no concern for the consequences.”

Farishta flushed with irritation. So typical of Khalid, to claim Afia as his sister and denigrate Shahid as if he were an interloper. But as if to prevent her from speaking out of turn, a bell tinkled from the kitchen. “That's Tayyab,” she said, rising. “Shall I bring dinner out, or will you eat with us?”

BOOK: A Sister to Honor
2.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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