Cover Image: Honor

Honor

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Member Reviews

Honor. It can mean treating someone with respect. And it can mean one’s good name and public esteem.

For some, protecting their honor may involve not honoring another–not respecting them, even harming them. And then there are those who sacrifice their personal honor, so as to honor others by protecting them.

Thrity Umrigar’s new novel Honor explores all the meanings of honor through a propelling and chilling story set in contemporary India. At the center of the story is a young wife who seeks justice after her brothers kill her husband, and maim her, because she married outside of their religion. An American reporter, Smita, born in India, is called upon to report on the trial’s verdict. She is accompanied by a Mumbai man, Mohan, born to wealth and privilege. He loves his flawed country; her family had to flee their homeland for safety.

The two stories are mirrors of the cultural clash between Muslims and Hindus that has plagued India for generations.

Meena, the widow, is fiercely protective of her child, all she has left of her four happy months of marriage. Her love story, her courage and fortitude, will amaze you and break your heart.

Smita has her traumatic story, too, which she eventually reveals to Mohan. She breaks the cardinal rule for journalists of not becoming emotionally involved in a story. But meeting Meena and her daughter, and the brothers and village elder who orchestrated the attack, she struggles for objectivity.

Readers will be caught up by the propelling story line and climatic ending.

Wherever, whenever, people clash over their ideals and values, honor becomes a password to justify their actions. And wherever, and whenever, people truly love and care for another, they honor the beloved even through sacrifice. It is a choice we constantly make.

Which will you choose?

I received an ARC from the publisher. My review is fair and unbiased.
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Another amazing novel from Ms Umrigar, perhaps her best yet. Her beloved India is the main “character” and imbues nearly every thought and action. An American journalist and India native has to face her own fears and memories when returning there to cover a story of hate between religious factions. She also rediscovers the beauty in the land and in the people of her birth. The novel is perfectly paced with beautiful language and characters that immediately jump into your heart. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for the ARC to read and review.
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“A mongoose can not lay down next to a snake. Thus it is between the Hindu and the
Muslim.”

Honor by Thrity Umrigar is a masterpiece. I have loved every one of her books, but this one might be my favorite, though I think I say that after I finish reading each and every one of her books. There are some books that make me feel like I could never write a review that would give the book the praise it deserves. This is one of those books.

Would you sell your honor to protect your family? Would you sacrifice pride and self respect for those you love? Abdul, Meena and Smita’s father faced these questions throughout their lives. This is a story about caste, class, religious bigotries and having the human spirit to endure the worst horrors imaginable. It is incomprehensible that people could treat others with such hatred and then inflict torture on those they call family. 

Meena, a lowly, Hindu woman, a slave, has her life destroyed by her brothers and the village she lives in because she  fell in love with a Muslim man. She takes a giant step by telling  Smita, an American journalist, her story so that she can try and implement change for other Indian women like her. Meena does this realizing  that this sacrifice could  put her on an even darker path, but she is doing it for her daughter and other women, hoping to leave the world a better place for them to grow up in. Smita, an American journalist, was born in India, and as a young girl leaves India with her family to live in America. Smita did not ever want to return to India due to a secret she harbors while she lived there.  She has returned to help a friend but instead ends up working, telling Meena’s  story. 

This is one of the most horrific stories I have ever read. There were times I didn’t think I could continue. But we must read about the atrocities in our world so that we can institute change and try and make our world a better place to live. Thank  you NetGalley and Algonquin Books for an ARC of Honor in exchange for an honest review. The publishing date is January 4, 2022. Make this your first read in the new year.
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In Honor, Smita, an American journalist who was born in India, returns at the behest of her friend to cover the story of Meena, a Hindu woman who was severely disfigured when her brothers burned down her cabin and killed her Muslim husband. The narrative alternates between Smita's story and Meena's story. It presents two India's--the modern city and the rural areas that consider women subservient to their husbands and religious segragation is a way of life. The book is also about Smita coming to terms with her past and the reason her family left India. The tragedies are difficult and disturbing, but the books is worth the read.
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Smita never wanted to see India again, but when she returns to care for an injured journalist colleague, she ends up covering a horrific honor killing trial and bonding with the woman who survived. This book is both heartbreaking and hopeful.
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Excellent book. I requested this as background reading as BookBrowse is running a "First Impressions Program" booked by Randall, and it is proving a great success. The many excellent five star reviews are at https://www.bookbrowse.com/reader_reviews/index.cfm/ezine_preview_number/16075/honor#reader_reviews (and a good number of respondents will already have posted elsewhere, or will do later.

In addition to the First Impressions activity on BookBrowse and in newsletters that will run from on sale, we will also be featuring it as a "Today's Top Picks" recommendation for at least a week.
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A very good read.In my opinion, there are several “ minor” characters in the book.
Smita, the gender issues journalist, Mohan, the upper class Indian man with whom she falls in love, and Meena,the horribly maimed Hindu woman whose fate is sealed when she marries a Muslim man from rural India.The main “ character” if you will , is India itself. We see the India of Mumbai-the large hectic metropolis so well depicted in movies, and the impoverished India of the small remote villages, with people living in abject poverty and ruled by harsh dictatorial tribal elders and customs and corruption.The conflict between Hindu India and Muslim India is clearly represented, and the horrors perpetrated in their name could be Israeli/ Palestinian, extreme right wing politics/ extreme left, a symbol for every place and every circumstance when intolerance reigns.The final chapter is predictable but nevertheless well told and emotional.
A good read about a country on my “ bucket list”.
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Plot: 4/5 Writing: 4/5 Characters: 4/5

Smita Agarwal is an Indian-American gender issues journalist who works hard to maintain her objectivity. Despite being Indian by birth, India is the one country she refuses to cover due to a long ago personal trauma that she has never really confronted.  When a close friend is hospitalized and begs her to cover an important Indian story for her, Smita has no choice but to comply.  The story is a tough one: a woman (Meena) whose husband was set on fire in an honor killing by her brothers is now bringing the case back to trial despite knowing that the outcome will not really help her in any way.

While the emotionally ridden story of the honor killing and precipitating events fills the pages, the real story is about the impact on Smita and Mohan — a well-to-do Indian man who took a vacation in order to help as her driver and translator — neither of whom are prepared for the ugliness they find. 

This was a hard book for me to read.  It’s written in a dramatic style that left me feeling constantly angry, frustrated, and hopeless  (I am an emotional sponge type reader so these things hit me hard).  The characters of Smita and Mohan were well-drawn — it was easy to identify and resonate with them as their reactions were similar to what mine would have been.  The characters of Meena, her brothers, her mother-in-law, and her husband were more two-dimensional as though the author was trying to make sense of how uneducated villagers conduct their lives.  It’s so alien to me that I couldn’t really “get” it, but let’s face it — it would be difficult for me to get it given my own, very different, background.

Good storyline — I like the way the author showed many good and non-abusive men in contrast to these utterly oppressive village men.  At the same time she did a great job of showing how Mohan lived with an upper-caste and male oriented privilege and not even be aware of the advantages this conferred upon him.  Also some wonderful descriptions of scenery and culture.  

Worth reading but for me it became a “daytime only” book because it really put me in a depressed state that was not conducive to sleep.
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