Summary and book reviews of Honor by Thrity Umrigar

Honor

by Thrity Umrigar

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

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Book Summary

The New Reese's Book Club Pick for January!

In this riveting and immersive novel, bestselling author Thrity Umrigar tells the story of two couples and the sometimes dangerous and heartbreaking challenges of love across a cultural divide.

Indian American journalist Smita has returned to India to cover a story, but reluctantly: long ago she and her family left the country with no intention of ever coming back. As she follows the case of Meena—a Hindu woman attacked by members of her own village and her own family for marrying a Muslim man—Smita comes face to face with a society where tradition carries more weight than one's own heart, and a story that threatens to unearth the painful secrets of Smita's own past. While Meena's fate hangs in the balance, Smita tries in every way she can to right the scales. She also finds herself increasingly drawn to Mohan, an Indian man she meets while on assignment. But the dual love stories of Honor are as different as the cultures of Meena and Smita themselves: Smita realizes she has the freedom to enter into a casual affair, knowing she can decide later how much it means to her.

In this tender and evocative novel about love, hope, familial devotion, betrayal, and sacrifice, Thrity Umrigar shows us two courageous women trying to navigate how to be true to their homelands and themselves at the same time.

CHAPTER FIVE

Smita's heart began to flutter, and her hands turned clammy within moments of strolling down the Causeway . Her anxiety wasn't caused by the vendors at the roadside stalls who begged her to examine their leather purses and silver jewelry and wooden statues. It wasn't because she heard her own distant laughter in the laughter coming from the schoolgirls walking ahead of her, saw her former self in the way they half skipped, half walked down the sidewalk. It wasn't because she passed Metro Shoes and remembered going there with Mummy at the start of each school year. It wasn't because she passed shops selling schoolbags and remembered Papa buying new backpacks for her and Rohit at the start of each school year. It wasn't even because she walked past the Olympia Coffee House and remembered the egg bhurji breakfast that Papa used to sometimes treat her to on Saturdays.

Her hands went clammy because she was close to the one street that she'd hoped to avoid forever.

Spencer Road. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Smita tells Mohan that her India is not his India. What does she mean?
  2. How is Meena's India different from Smita's? What explains the differences?
  3. Meena relates her story to us directly, in the "rst person. Why do you think the author chose this point of view?
  4. Meena's brothers think they are doing the moral thing, the right thing, by punishing their sister and her husband. Honor killings are a fact of life in many parts of the world. What do you think it will take to change this cultural practice?
  5. What do you think of a system where the village council and the head of that council have so much power? What are the consequences of those posi- tions being held by men?
  6. Why didn't Smita's father change their name back to their family name ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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). 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. But the author is Thrity Umrigar, who never disappoints (Joan V)...continued

Full Review Members Only (716 words).

(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

Minneapolis Star Tribune
Umrigar aptly tackles honor killings in rural India and paints Meena with agency and depth...Honor boldly examines a system that continues to greenlight brutality and serves as a poignant reminder that despite all odds, 'in every country, in every crisis, there are a handful of people who will stand against the tide.'

BookPage
Thrity Umrigar's novel offers a well-rounded portrait of India...Whether she's writing about the bright lights of Mumbai or the poverty of village life, Umrigar excels at creating engaging situations and scenes. Readers will appreciate this novel's deep understanding of the many complexities of Indian society.

Shelf Awareness
Full-bodied and insightful, Honor is both a page-turning account of a horrific family drama and a meditation on the complexities of love—both personal and national.

Publishers Weekly
Propulsive...Umrigar offers readers a broad understanding of the complicated issues at play in contemporary India, but the story fails to do the subject justice.

Kirkus Reviews
Umrigar's juxtaposition of urban norms with the archaic, impoverished rural hinterland, as well as Abdul's dreams of himself and Meena as a modern, integrated couple, delivers a clear message but a starkly delineated one, its allegorical quality intensified by one-dimensional supporting characters.

Booklist
Umrigar excels in her juxtaposition of the contrasts between the tech hub image of contemporary India and the deep religious divisions that continue to wrack rural regions.

Library Journal (starred review)
Indian-born, U.S.-raised journalist Smita abandons her vacation to visit Shannon, a newspaper colleague who's been hospitalized in Mumbai...Umrigar gives us a rounded perspective that shows how India still resonates with Smita and how it leads her to imagine a new and better nation.

Author Blurb Reese Witherspoon
Complex and unfiltered ... Powerful story about family, devotion, and cultural truths.

Reader Reviews

Betty J Taylor

Very Powerful
This book grabbed me from the very beginning. The writing is superb, the story heartbreaking and haunting. If you loved Khalid Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, then you must read this book. A powerful quote from it: "Everywhere she ...   Read More
Millicent G. (Cypress, TX)

Invisible Walls
Just recently I returned from a three week visit with my daughter and my grandchildren in Ireland after a two year Covid hiatus. Ireland is a land of stone walls, ancient and modern, intact and crumbling, high and low. Yesterday morning I woke up ...   Read More
Pat S. (Sarasota, FL)

Too Pure of Heart
Two Indians, one Muslim and one Hindu, who were uneducated and living in poverty, loved each other. They could not comprehend the level of hatred thrown at them. This level of hatred still exists in today's world when people do not follow perceived ...   Read More
Ilyse F. (Freehold, NJ)

The Many Types of Honor
Honor is an apt name for a novel that explores all the ways that we can be honorable and all the ways that people commit atrocities and betrayals in the name of honor. The book has a dual story line. One is the family history of Smita, an Indian ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Escalating Anti-Muslim Sentiment in India

At the time of the partition in 1947, what was once the British colony of India was split, separating the predominantly Hindu Dominion of India (modern-day Republic of India) from the predominantly Muslim Dominion of Pakistan (modern-day Pakistan and Bangladesh). Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru envisaged India as a secular socialist democratic republic. Sadly, his vision did not endure, and anti-Muslim sentiment and violence have been a constant, increasingly so since the early 1990s. This issue is captured vividly in Thrity Umrigar's novel Honor, which centers around a Hindu woman who is suing her brothers for murdering her Muslim husband.

India is constitutionally secular, and the population is roughly 84% Hindu and 14% Muslim. ...

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