BookBrowse Reviews Honor by Thrity Umrigar

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by Thrity Umrigar

Honor by Thrity Umrigar X
Honor by Thrity Umrigar
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2022, 336 pages

    Oct 2022, 352 pages


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An Indian American journalist returns to the nation of her birth to report on the story of a Hindu woman whose brothers murdered her Muslim husband.

First Impressions readers enjoyed being transported to India via Thrity Umrigar's novel Honor, with 36 out of 38 rating the book four or five stars.

What it's about:

Smita—a Mumbai native who is now an American journalist, reluctantly returns to India on an assignment she accepted as a favor to a friend. Her assignment is to profile Meena, a Hindu villager whose Muslim husband was burned to death in an "honor killing" by Meena's brothers. Meena, left disfigured in the attack, has brought charges; a verdict pends. Umrigar's strength is her great storytelling. As always, not a word is wasted as she moves us through urban Mumbai and into Meena's rural village, and into complex encounters and confrontations that Smita views with double vision as an Indian American. Her investigation stirs up painful memories of her youth in Mumbai, during the years when rising Hindu nationalism reawakened the violence of partition, now a fact of life in India. At the center of the story is Smita's developing bond with Meena and with Mohan, the friend of her friend, who is acting as her guide, driver and protector in a village where women are not supposed to work, let alone as journalists (Janice P).

Readers appreciated the insight into different facets of life in India:

You will be transported to India where you will learn about the American journalist who tells the story of Meena and Abdul. These pages are written with reality, tenderness and insight into how we are more alike than different (Helen P). Umrigar brings the city of Mumbai to life with her descriptions of the crowds, the heat, the beauty and the cultural disparities. You feel as if you are on the journey with them whether they are in a large city or a remote village (Joan V).

Though the subject matter can be difficult, the book has an approachable style:

While it is painful to read some scenes, Umrigar allows the reader to look into the windows of goodness in the hearts of people who attempt to make change in this world of sadness (Maribeth R). I feel the author's talent lies in delving into and describing the atrocity of acts of misogyny and other inequalities while not pushing the reader away in the process. This is a book and author not to be forgotten, both for subject matter and for her skill in drawing the reader into a place that's not easy to be in (Becky D). It is hard subject matter to read, but Umrigar does it in such a way that you feel the injustice, the hate, the pain, but can continue reading. She is a master at balancing the horror of what mankind is capable of, while also showing the love, loyalty, and compassion that lives within so many (Kate S).

Those familiar with Thrity Umrigar's work appreciated this book's place in her oeuvre:

I have read many of Thrity Umrigar's earlier works and found them all to be thoughtful and rich, and Honor is no exception (Nancy L). This was an easy book to rate: five stars, no hesitation (Joan V). I am a loyal fan of Umrigar's work, and she did not disappoint. Honor was well-written, with a compelling storyline. Heartbreaking, and anger-inducing. All in all, an excellent and important book, highly recommended (Cheryl S). I've been a fan of Thrity Umrigar's fiction since the 2006 publication of The Space Between Us. A Mumbai native who emigrated to the United States at 21, her novels all explore the various "spaces" between us — caste or class, religion, race, above all gender — within the social context of modern India, but with timely parallels to the United States (Janice P).

Many noted that Honor offers rich topics of discussion for book clubs:

Thrity Umrigar is a masterful writer whose characters are well-developed. I highly recommend Honor to all readers. Book clubs will have lots to talk about (Esther L). The book offers much to discuss for book clubs: oppression, opportunity, hope, religious differences, familial devotion, misogyny, friendship, betrayal, love and honor. I loved this book and I will recommend it to my book club (Helen P). Honor is a captivating read, an intriguing window into a culture as well as a really good story. Book clubs will find endless areas of discussion (Donna M).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in January 2022, and has been updated for the December 2022 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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