Friday, January 16, 2015

My take on: A Sister to Honor

The definition of honor as defined by Merriam Webster:

--respect that is given to someone who is admired
--good reputation; good quality or character as judged by other people
--high moral standards of behavior

I had to look up that word after reading A Sister to Honor by Lucy Ferriss. The word honor means a lot of things to a lot of people. In this book, the word honor is deeply rooted in family and culture. Brother and sister, Shahid and Afia Satar are natives of Pakistan living in New England. Both are working their way toward college degrees at neighboring colleges, and with them they are both carrying a heavy burden. The burden of honoring the family name. The burden of honoring the family's status in Pakistan. The burden of living by the standards of their culture while in America. They are living in America but are not supposed to live like Americans.

Shahid is a star athlete on the Enright University college team. He has to have razor-sharp focus. He is the leader of the team. It is also his responsibility to watch after Afia. Sounds normal. But their relationship goes beyond what most people would consider normal. Afia has dreams of becoming a doctor, but she does something that women in her family are not supposed to do. She has fallen in love. She has fallen in love with Gus, a teammate of Shahid's. Afia has worked very hard to keep this relationship from everyone, including her roommates and friends. But a "scandalous" photo of Afia has surfaced on the internet.

What's so "scandalous" about the photo? She's holding Gus' hand in the photo. She's holding the hand of a man she is not married to. It looks innocent and harmless to Shahid's coach Lissy. But to Shahid that photo is anything but harmless. Afia has brought shame to the family name. Where they come from, girls are severely punished and sometimes even killed for this kind of behavior. Shahid fears he will be forced to punish Afia. But how can he do this? He loves his father. He loves his mother. He loves his other sisters, too. He also loves his culture and way of life. But how is punishing Afia the honorable thing? His step-brother, Khalid, is convinced that Afia deserves to be punished.

Shahid has the weight of the world on his shoulders. What about Afia? I was just astounded that Afia seemed to accept her fate. She's supposed to have opinions or dreams that could jeopardize her family's honor. When Gus is mysteriously injured, Afia quickly suspects Shahid. An attempt on her life only increases Afia's fears. Lissy doesn't fully understand the dynamic between Afia and Shahid. She doesn't understand what "honor" means to them. She wants to understand. But trying to get at the root of the problem could prove to be dangerous for Lissy.

This one started out a little slow for me, but after 100 pages I was hooked. I could really feel the emotional struggles of Shahid, Afia, and Lissy. Reading about a way of life that is so different from my own was disturbing. The author's writing truly makes you question how some people can have such extreme beliefs. What would you do for your family's honor? Would you let a sense of duty blind your judgment? It's one of those books that stays with you longer after you've finished. I would definitely read another book by Lucy Ferriss.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Penguin) as part of a blog tour.


  1. I'm reading this one right now. I agree -- it starts slowly, but the conflict is really well set up, so it feels tense from the very beginning. I'm almost afraid to see what happens next!

  2. I definitely get that feeling. Pacing is such a big deal for me. I almost gave up on this, but I'm glad I finished.