A richly braided recollection of family and friends, culture and recent history. Daughter of Pakistan's eminent, impetuous journalist Z.A. Suleri and a Welsh teacher of English literature ("My mother would not do without Jane Austen"), Sara Suleri grew up during the "trying times" following independence in 1947 when the government's Meatless Days policy was foiled by a butcher/housewife conspiracy. Writing about those charged years when her family changed addresses as her father searched for political solutions, she is generous with anecdotes and skillful in sharing significances: how food and customs bound women together, for example, or how adult discoveries--sweetbreads, a delicacy, were really testicles--refined those bonds. Moving through Lahore streets that "wind absentmindedly between centuries," she contemplates a college friend who arrived without instincts from East Africa; limns a sister's "stance of wild inquiry"; and regards with distant sympathy her father's perpetual quest for the country's path. In an especially affecting chapter, she considers her mother's singular position as an outsider in a nearly feudal culture ("a guest in her own name") and attempts to stake out "the possible location of her inattention." Suleri approaches these several lives--and her own, as a darker sister--by theme rather than chronology, imaginatively moving from childhood impressions ("My aunts smell like my mother") to dreams to adult perceptions--a bounty of phrases, images, metaphors. And as she travels to England (as a child) and Yale (where she now teaches Third World literature), she never loses her power to astonish.