Book Review: A Sister to Honor By Lucy Ferriss

A SISTER TO HONOR: A Novel

By: Lucy Ferriss

Published: January 6, 2015

Publisher: Berkley Trade

Fiction/Women’s Fiction

Afia and
her brother Shahid have come to America from Pakistan. Shahid came first to
play squash in college. He then convinced his family in Pakistan that sending
his sister to complete her studies and become a doctor was the best thing for
their family. Shahid promised to protect her and protect their family honor.
Shahid was busy with his own studies, working toward his future coaching career
at Harvard, and his squash matches that he missed Afia, off at another college,
living a bit more Americanized than his family would have liked. Soon a photo
appears on the college webpage of Afia holding hands with an American man. Word
travels back to Pakistan and their family’s honor is immediately in jeopardy.
How did the family find out so quickly about the photo? Shahid is expected to
take care of this situation, but can he do what is expected of him? 
Understanding the culture, religion and honor code of
families in Pakistan is central to this novel. Ferriss does an excellent job of
displaying the American’s inability to grasp this strict honor code and Shahid
and Afia’s need to maintain it even while here in the United States. This clash
of cultures causes numerous problems not only for Afia and Shahid, but for
their American friends as well. Nothing in the novel was unbelievable and
sadly, I’m sure there was a lot of truth to the situations that played out in
Afia and Shahid’s story. 
A story like this is eye-opening for those of us who cannot
comprehend that type of honor code and rules that are expected to be followed.
When those rules are broken, the ripple effects through the community back home
and for the family can be life-changing. Reading Afia’s struggle over the
decision to do what is right for her family and country and doing what she wanted
to do was heartbreaking. It is something that most of us born and raised in the
Midwest could never understand. I find reading and learning about other
cultures fascinating. The expectations and rules for women, especially in
Islamic countries, remind me to appreciate the freedoms and opportunities I
have here in America.
This
conversation between Coach Hayes and her husband about Shahid gives a glimpse
into that honor code:
“What difference did you want him to see?
“The one between quilt and shame.” 
“Would it be sinful for Afia to have a
boyfriend, 
or just shameful if people knew about it?”
               
                     
                     
  Page 60
I found each of the characters realistic whether they were
in America or Pakistan. Shahid’s relationship with his coach and mentor, Lissy
Hayes and Afia’s romantic relationship with Gus were well-developed and their
personalities jumped off the pages. Afia’s personal struggle between remaining
covered to honor her family, yet wanting to wear American clothing in order to
fit in were understandable. The author even described the first tastes of
American food, like Afia’s first burger and her struggle with making one for
the first time.  The characters became
real and allowed the reader to become invested and root for them when life became
difficult.  
The beginning of the novel started slowly for me as the
story began in Pakistan with names of people and places that were difficult to
keep track of. The family relationships were confusing and a family tree would
have helped keep everyone straight. Eventually, the important characters
emerged and when the following chapters took the story to America, it became
easier to follow. 

Once you reach a third of the way into the novel it will be
difficult to put down. You will find yourself in shock and incredulous to what is unfolding on the pages in front of you. There were a few times I expected the story to
go in one direction and then it lead me in a completely different one. This book is a page-turner all the way to the
very end. Even with an ending that leaves you a little unsatisfied, you still
find yourself satiated with a story full of twists and turns, love, romance,
family, and forgiveness. All of these are keys to a great story and A SISTER TO
HONOR is one you will be compelled to finish quickly. 

Born in St. Louis, Lucy Ferriss has lived on both coasts, in the middle, and abroad. She is the author of ten books, mostly fiction.  Her novel THE LOST DAUGHTER (Berkley 2012) was a BOMC alternate selection and a national bestseller. Many of her short fiction and essays have appeared most recently in the New York Times, Missouri Review, Shenandoah, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Georgia Review, and have received recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Faulkner Society, the Fulbright Commission, and the George Bennett Fund, among others, 

She received her Ph.D. from Tufts University and currently lives with Don Moon in the Berkshires and in Connecticut, where she is Writer-in-Residence at Trinity College. She has two strong sons and abiding passions for music, politics, travel, tennis, and wilderness.  Visit Lucy at her website http://lucyferriss.com. You can also find Ferriss on Facebook, HERE and Twitter, HERE.

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Thanks to Penguin Group for sending me a copy of this novel for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in way for this review. If you choose to purchase the book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting SincerelyStacie.com reviews. 

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