Excerpt from A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Place for Us

by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza X
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
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    Jun 2018, 448 pages

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A Place For Us

As Amar watched the hall fill with guests arriving for his sister's wedding, he promised himself he would stay. It was his duty tonight to greet them. A simple task, one he told himself he could do well, and he took pride in stepping forward to shake the hands of the men or hold his hand over his heart to pay the women respect. He hadn't expected his smile to mirror those who seemed happy to see him. Nor had he anticipated the startling comfort in the familiarity of their faces. It had really been three years. Had it not been for his sister's call, he might have allowed years more to pass before mustering the courage it took to return.

He touched his tie to make sure it was centered. He smoothed down his hair, as if a stray strand would be enough to call attention, give him away. An old family friend called out his name and hugged him. What would he tell them if they asked where he had been, and how he was doing? The sounds of the shenai started up to signal the commencement of Hadia's wedding. Suddenly the hall was brought to life and there, beneath the golden glow of the chandeliers and surrounded by the bright colors of the women's dresses, Amar thought maybe he had been right to come. He could convince them all—the familiar faces, his mother who he sensed checking on him as she moved about, his father who maintained his distance—he could even convince himself, that he belonged here, that he could wear the suit and play the part, be who he had been before, assume his role tonight as brother of the bride.

It had been Hadia's decision to invite him. She watched her sister Huda get ready and hoped it had not been a mistake. That morning Hadia had woken with her brother on her mind and all day she willed herself to think as other brides must—that she would be using the word husband when speaking of Tariq now, that after years of wondering if they would make it to this moment, they had arrived. What she had not even dared to believe possible for her was coming true: marrying a man she had chosen for herself.

Amar had come as she had hoped. But when she was shocked at the sight of him she realized she never actually believed he would. Three years had passed with no news from him. On the day she told her parents she would invite him she had not allowed herself to pray, Please God, have him come, but only, Please God, let my father not deny me this. She had practiced her words until her delivery was so steady and confident any onlooker would think she was a woman who effortlessly declared her wishes.

Huda finished applying her lipstick and was fastening the pin of her silver hijab. She looked beautiful, dressed in a navy sari stitched with silver beadwork, the same sari that a handful of Hadia's closest friends would be wearing. There was an excitement about her sister that Hadia could not muster for herself.

"Will you keep an eye on him tonight?" Hadia asked.

Huda held her arm up to slip rows of silver bangles over her wrist, each one falling with a click. She turned from the mirror to face Hadia.

"Why did you call him if you didn't want him to come?"

Hadia studied her hands, covered in dark henna. She pressed her fingernails into her arm. "It's my wedding day."

An obvious statement, but it was true. It did not matter if she had not heard from her brother in years, she could not imagine this day without him. But relief at the sight of Amar brought with it that old shadow of worry for him.

"Will you call him here?" Hadia said. "And when he comes, will you give us a moment alone?"

She returned Huda's gaze then. And though Huda looked briefly hurt, she didn't ask Hadia to share what she was, and always had been, excluded from.

As she glided between guests and stopped to hug women she had not yet greeted, it occurred to Layla that this was what she might have pictured her life to look like once, when her children were young and she knew who her family would contain but not what life would be like for them. She walked with a straight back and careful smile and felt this event was hers as much as it was her daughter's. And Amar was nearby. She looked to him between conversations, tracked his movement across the hall, checked his face for any discomfort.

Excerpted from A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. Copyright © 2018 by Fatima Farheen Mirza. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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