Friday, January 21, 2022


Author:  Thrity Umrigar
Publication Information:  Algonquin Books. 2022. 336 pages.
ISBN:  161620995X / 978-1616209957

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Her face is a constellation of stars."

Favorite Quote:  "Everywhere she went, it seemed, it was open season on women. Rape, female genital mutilation, bride burnings, domestic abuse - everyone, in every country, women were abused, isolated, silenced, imprisoned, controlled, punished, and killed. Sometimes, it seems to Smita that the history of the world was written in female blood."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Meena is a young woman. Born and raised in a small village in rural India, Meena grows up under the strict control of her brothers. She and her sister flout tradition by getting paying jobs to help support the families. Her brothers use her earrings but considering her working an insult to them. Meena, a Hindu girl, falls in love with a Muslim man. She is forbidden and then worse to prevent such a union. She marries him anyway. They have a daughter. They name her Abru. "It means Honor."

Meena's brothers exact revenge and, in their eyes, restore their honor by murdering her husband by burning him alive. He dies, and Meena is left permanently scarred. Her courage propels her further. She allows an attorney to file suit against her brothers. "Steel is forged from fire."

Everyone awaits the court's decision. This is the point at which the book begins and the point at which Smita joins the story. She is a reporter. She is of Indian heritage, but her family immigrated to the United States when Smita was young. Being back in India brings back to Smita all the reasons she loved India but all the betrayals and hate that caused her family to leave.

Through the story of these two women both past and present, the book tackles so many issues surrounding even modern day India - poverty, corruption, religious tensions, and, most of all, violence against women. This view is tempered through the depiction of Mohan, who embodies a passion for his homeland and a vision of what it could be.

The story of this book is Smita's story, including her telling of Meena's story and her own role in Meena's story. That is my only regret about this compelling and heartbreaking book. I want this to be Meena's story first and foremost. That is the voice I want to hear for that is the voice the world needs to hear. However, the book begins and ends with Smita.

Smita's story in and of itself is tragic and horrifying, but it is Meena's story that I want to hear more of. Smita's story is of strife between faiths, and times when friends and neighbors betrayed each other in the name of religion. Meena's story is of the strife between two faiths and even more so about the plight of women - women of any faith in a rigid, male dominated society. Smita's story is of a terrifying, horrifying, life altering event as a child, but it is about a way out and life - even a good life - after. Meena's story is about a lifetime of subjugation and abuse with no foreseeable way out. Smita's story is a reflection back on tragedy and the way in which a decision can alter the trajectory of an entire life. Meena's story is an ongoing tragedy. Not to mitigate the trauma in Smita's story, but I am drawn more to Meena's story. The fact that the books begins and ends with Smita highlights that disparity in focus even more starkly.

Nevertheless, both women are memorable characters, and the events described so tragic that the book will stay with me for a long time.

About the Author

Thrity Umrigar is the bestselling author of eight novels, including The Space Between Us, which was a finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award, as well as a memoir and three picture books. Her books have been translated into several languages and published in more than fifteen countries. She is the winner of a Lambda Literary Award and a Seth Rosenberg Award and is Distinguished Professor of English at Case Western Reserve University. A recipient of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard, she has contributed to the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Huffington Post.

About the Book

The bestselling author of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award finalist The Space Between Us and eight other critically acclaimed novels that have been published in over fifteen countries, Thrity Umrigar has long been known as an author with “an uncanny ability to look deeply into the human heart and find the absolute truth of our lives” (Luis Alberto Urrea). Now, it is with great excitement that we welcome Umrigar to the Algonquin list with HONOR (Publication Date: January 4th, 2022; $26.95), her ninth novel in a remarkably accomplished career. Returning to subjects that have long haunted her work—the complex relationship between women of different classes, the power of privilege and wealth, and the lively, frenetic energy of Mumbai—Umrigar’s HONOR is a “powerful, important, unforgettable book” (Cheryl Strayed) that shows she is working at the height of her extraordinary talents. As New York Times bestselling author Lisa Wingate says, “In the way A Thousand Splendid Suns told of Afghanistan’s women, Umrigar tells a story of India with the intimacy of one who knows the many facets of a land both modern and ancient... A place where love can sometimes involve the peril of defying convention, and ultimately risking everything for what matters most.”

When a young Hindu woman is brutally tortured for marrying a Muslim man, and her husband murdered, Indian-American journalist Smita travels to India to cover the story of the young widow, Meena, and her attackers—her own brothers, who feel their sister’s forbidden marriage brought unforgivable shame to the family. Returning to Mumbai for the first time in twenty years, Smita sees a country entrenched in outdated beliefs about caste, religion, and patriarchy, a country where a woman can meet violence for exercising any amount of autonomy. But Smita’s harsh assessment of modern India is complicated by Mohan, a lifelong Mumbai resident with progressive ideals and a fierce love of his country who becomes her unofficial partner in her quest to bring awareness to the tragedy. As Smita works for justice on behalf of Meena and her infant daughter, she must also reckon with the privilege she now has as an American—and finally face the trauma that led to her own family fleeing India all those years ago.

“A few years ago, I read a series of articles in the New York Times about the misogyny endured by women in rural India,” says Umrigar, a recipient of the Nieman fellowship at Harvard, a Distinguished Professor of English at Case Western University, and former prize-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe. “I lived in India until I was 21, but since I was raised in a modern, urban family, some of the ‘traditions’ and rituals I read about—most of which are rooted in iron-clad beliefs about caste and religion and patriarchy—shocked me. I began to conceive of a novel where a woman who exercises basic human rights—the right to employment, to love and marry whoever she chooses—is brutally punished for her courage. I wanted to explore her inner life, the source of such bravery. And then I thought of a second character, one who has had the advantages of wealth and education, but who has also been wounded by the divisions in Indian society. I wanted to see these two women in conversation, to see whether they could inspire and support one another.”

“With HONOR, Thrity Umrigar continues her habit of laying bare the folly of our perceived differences,” says Connie Schultz, author of The Daughters of Erietown. “This an intense and spellbinding novel, ricocheting between fear and hope, and betrayal and redemption. HONOR is the story of the human heart in all of its complexities, and love worth fighting for.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment