A Place for Us Summary & Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 35-page guide for “A Place for Us” by Fatima Farheen Mirza includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 16 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Everything’s Clearer in Hindsight and Intergenerational Conflicts and Similarities.
Fatima Farheen Mirza’s A Place for Us debuted in 2018. The book, an instant New York Times best-seller, was lauded as one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, NPR, and more. It’s notable for its extensive use of flashbacks and shifting perspective, which moves between third and first person.
The novel begins when Amar, a young man estranged from his traditional Indian Muslim family, comes home for his sister Hadia’s wedding. There is tension in Amar’s interactions with the other guests, as he has not seen them in years. While Amar’s mother, Layla, is glad he is there, his father, Rafiq, is subdued; meanwhile, Amar and Hadia’s middle sister, Huda, seems peripheral to the drama.
Perhaps to raise her brother’s spirits, Hadia asserts that she and her brother share common ground. Because Hadia chose her betrothed, Tariq, rather than accept an arranged marriage, she has let their parents down as much as he has. During the festivities, Amar reconnects with a young woman named Amira. They have feelings for each other even after years apart, or at the very least share an intense emotional bond. Of all the guests present, Amira and Hadia are who Amar connects with most.
The narrative flashes back to when Amar’s parents were newly married and traveled to America. The oldest and youngest of their three children, Hadia and Amar, seem like polar opposites. Where Hadia is an excellent student, Amar does poorly in school. Hadia’s crush, a boy named Abbas, befriends Amar, accepting him unconditionally. Young Amar and Hadia are incredibly close as siblings, often confiding in each other. However, Hadia grows bitter toward her brother. Even Amar’s smallest accomplishments receive praise that eclipses her achievements.
Their teenage years grow fraught with the strain of hidden relationships. Abbas’s unexpected death in a car accident affects both siblings deeply. Amar becomes involved with Abbas’s younger sister, Amira, meeting her often in secret. Calamity befalls the family thereafter, as they suffer verbal abuse and ostracization after 9/11. Amar’s relationship with Amira ends when Amira’s mother finds out.
While Hadia’s life improves dramatically during medical school, complications arise when her parents ask her to come home. Amar has slid into depression, having succumbed to alcohol and substance abuse. Her return and the subsequent intervention attempt go poorly, as Rafiq starts a fight between himself, Hadia, and Amar. Amar pushes their father into a picture frame, which shatters. He leaves home that night.
In the present, Amar gets to know Tariq, his sister’s fiancé, at the wedding. The two young men get along well in their brief encounter, not unlike how Amar once got along with Abbas. Amar and Amira have a private heart-to-heart where Amira says she loved him deeply when they were young; Amar learns that his mother was to blame for their breakup. As a result, Amar starts a fight with his mother, heartbroken that his sister was permitted to choose her own partner whereas he was not permitted to remain with Amira. He does not even give Layla the chance to explain, leaving her to find comfort in alcohol instead of seeking resolution. Rafiq comes across his intoxicated son and agrees when Amar says he is too drunk to be included in the family photograph. Although Rafiq tells his son that they will surely reconcile in the next life and that he will wait for him, he returns to the hall for the family photograph and tells Layla that he could not find Amar anywhere.
A decade later, Rafiq is diagnosed with a brain tumor and hospitalized where Hadia works as a doctor. After successful surgery, Rafiq is sent home, and he spends as much time as he can with his grandchildren. After learning that his grandson Abbas occasionally gets phone calls from someone Hadia suspects is Amar, Rafiq asks Abbas to memorize and deliver a message. Rafiq’s message to Amar is that he believes there is another way for them, that they may yet be able to repair their relationship—and that even if they don’t meet again until the next life, Rafiq will always wait for him.