The Return of Faraz Ali
Aamina Ahmad — 2022
Sent back to his birthplace—Lahore’s notorious red-light district—to hush up the murder of a girl, a man finds himself in an unexpected reckoning with his past. Not since childhood has Faraz returned to the Mohalla, in Lahore’s walled inner city, where women still train up their daughters as courtesans—kanjaris—the profession into which they themselves were coerced. But he still remembers the day he was abducted from the home he shared with his mother and sister there, at the direction of his powerful father, who wanted to give him a chance at a respectable life. Now Wajid, once more dictating his fate from afar, has sent Faraz back to Lahore, installing him as head of the Mohalla police station and charging him with a mission: to cover up the violent death of a young kanjari. It should be a simple assignment to carry out in a marginalized community, but for the first time in his career, Faraz finds himself unable to follow orders. As the city assails him with a jumble of memories, he cannot stop asking questions or chasing down the walled city’s labyrinthine alleyways for the secrets—his family’s and his own—that risk shattering his precariously constructed existence. Profoundly intimate and propulsive, The Return of Faraz Ali is a spellbindingly assured first novel that poses a timeless question: Whom do we choose to protect, and at what price?