Date Published: January 4, 2022
Book Author: Thrity Umrigar
Summary reviewed by:
Bachelor of Arts (BA), University Of California, Santa Barbara 2019
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In a world where love can be a dangerous game, "Honor" by Thrity Umrigar takes readers on an emotional journey into the heart of India. Set against the backdrop of modern India's contrasting landscapes, Smita, an Indian-American journalist, is reluctantly dragged back to her homeland after years of distancing herself. Initially believing she's there to support a hospitalized friend, she's entrusted with uncovering the heart-wrenching story of an honor killing in a secluded village. As Smita dives into the tragic tale of Meena, a Hindu woman persecuted for her love for a Muslim man, she confronts haunting memories of her own past. Alongside her travels the enigmatic Mohan, serving as both protector and challenger to her views. As their paths intertwine with Meena's story, they embark on a journey of discovery, love, and the true meaning of honor.
Spoilers (click here to reveal spoilers)
Amidst the shadows of patriarchy and rigid traditions, the courtroom delivers its verdict on Meena's case. The aftermath ignites chaos and violence, revealing the ugliest facets of human nature. Yet, amidst the darkness, sparks of humanity shine through. Smita finds healing in unexpected places, her bond with Mohan deepens, and together they glimpse the possibility of a brighter future. "Honor" culminates in a heartrending climax, shedding light on the true essence of honor - found not in societal norms, but in the depths of the human heart.
Smita: A determined Indian-American journalist grappling with personal demons from her past. Values truth and justice, as seen when she risks everything to cover Meena’s story.
Mohan: A traditionally-minded Indian who serves as Smita’s guide and protector. Cherishes his homeland and its traditions, evident when he consistently challenges Smita’s negative views about India.
Meena: A brave Hindu woman who dares to love outside her religion. Symbolizes resilience and courage, evidenced by her decision to pursue charges against her own brothers despite societal pressure.
Shannon: Smita’s injured journalist friend who introduces her to Meena’s case. Embodies friendship and trust, shown when she confides in Smita to continue her unfinished story.
Love Across Divides: Explores the challenges of interfaith love, shown in Meena’s forbidden relationship with a Muslim man and the tragic consequences that follow.
Cultural Clash: Highlights the stark contrasts between Eastern and Western perspectives, embodied in the conflicting views of Smita and Mohan.
True Honor: Challenges societal notions of honor, exemplified by Meena’s brothers who commit heinous acts in its name, and contrasts with the genuine honor displayed by characters like Meena and Smita.
Empowerment Amidst Oppression: Showcases the resilience of women in the face of severe societal constraints, with characters like Meena and Smita taking control of their narratives.
Reconciliation with the Past: Delves into the personal journeys of characters, especially Smita, who confront and make peace with their past, depicted in Smita’s eventual acceptance of her Indian heritage.