Elif Shafak's Honor

International bestselling Turkish author Elif Shafak’s opening chapter begins with a daughter in mourning. Read how tragedy shatters and transforms one family’s life forever.

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From HONOR by Elif Shafak. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Elif Shafak, 2012.

My mother died twice. I promised myself I would not let her story be forgotten, but I could never find the time or the will or the courage to write about it. That is, until recently. I don’t think I’ll ever become a real writer and that’s quite all right now. I’ve reached an age at which I’m more at peace with my limitations and failures. But I had to tell the story, even if only to one person. I had to send it into some corner of the universe where it could float freely, away from us. I owed it to Mum, this freedom. And I had to finish it this year. Before he was released from prison.

In a few hours I’ll take the sesame halva off the hob, let it cool by the sink and kiss my husband, pretending not to notice the worried look in his eyes. Then I’ll leave the house with my twin daughters – seven years old, four minutes apart – and drive them to a birthday party. They’ll quarrel on the way, and, for once, I’ll not scold them. They’ll wonder if there will be a clown at the party, or, better still, a magician.

‘Like Harry Houdini,’ I’ll say.


‘Harry who?’

‘Who-deeny, she said, you silly!’

‘Who’s that, Mummy?’

That will hurt. A pain like a bee sting. Not much on the surface, but a growing burning within. I’ll realize, as I have done on so many occasions before, that they don’t know anything about their family history because I have told them so little. One day, when they’re ready. When I’m ready.

After I have dropped off the girls, I’ll chat for a while with the other mothers who have shown up. I’ll remind the party host that one of my daughters is allergic to nuts, but, since it is difficult to tell the twins apart, it is better to keep an eye on both of them and make sure neither gets any food with nuts, including the birthday cake. That is a bit unfair to my other daughter, but between siblings that does happen sometimes, the unfairness, I mean.

I’ll then get back into my car, a red Austin Montego that my husband and I take turns driving. The journey from London to Shrewsbury is three and a half hours. I may have to make a pit stop just before Birmingham. I will keep the radio on – that will help to chase the ghosts away, the music.

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Elif Shafak
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