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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There have been many times when I thought of killing him. I have made elaborate plans that involved guns, poison or, better yet, a flick- knife – a poetic justice, of sorts. I have also thought of forgiving him, fully and truly. In the end, I haven’t achieved either.

When I arrive in Shrewsbury, I’ll leave the car in front of the railway station and take the five-minute walk to the grimy prison building. I’ll pace the street or lean against the wall across from the main entrance, waiting for him to come out. I don’t know how long this will take. And I don’t know how he’ll react when he sees me. I haven’t visited him for more than a year. I used to go regularly, but as the day of his release drew closer I just stopped.

At some point the massive door will open from inside and he’ll walk out. He’ll gaze up at the overcast sky, unused to seeing this vast expanse above his head after fourteen years of incarceration. I imagine him blinking at the daylight, like a creature of the dark. In the mean- time, I’ll stay put, counting up to ten or one hundred or three thousand. We won’t embrace. We won’t shake hands. A mutual nod and the thinnest of greetings in small, strangulated voices. Once we get to the station, he’ll hop into the car. I’ll be surprised to see how athletic he is. He’s still a young man, after all.


Should he want to have a cigarette, I won’t object, even though I hate the smell and don’t let my husband smoke in the car or in the house. We’ll drive across the English countryside, passing through quiet meadows and open fields. He’ll inquire about my daughters. I’ll tell him they’re fine, growing fast. He’ll smile, though he hasn’t the slightest idea about parenthood. I won’t ask him anything in return.

I will have brought a cassette along to play. The greatest hits of ABBA – all the songs that my mother used to hum while cooking or cleaning or sewing. ‘Take a Chance on Me’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘The Name of the Game’ . . . for she’ll be watching us, I’m sure. Mothers don’t go to heaven when they die. They get special permission from God to stay around a bit longer and watch over their children, no matter what has passed between them in their brief mortal lives.

Back in London, once we reach Barnsbury Square, I’ll search for a parking space, grumbling to myself. It will start to rain – tiny crystal drops. Finally, we’ll find a spot into which I’ll squeeze the car after a dozen manoeuvres. I can deceive myself that I’m a good driver, until it comes to parking. I wonder if he’ll scoff at me for being a typical woman driver. He would have done so once.

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Elif Shafak
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