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Guest Review: Literace Reviews: Honor by Thrity Umrigar

Honor by Thrity Umrigar was such an immersive novel taking you into the world of two different Indias – one, bustling and modernizing Mumbai, and the other, Birwad, a rural town experiencing discrimination of the minority Muslim population. Smita is an Indian American journalist who returns to her birthplace of India and is thrust into the world of India that she and her family had tried to move past. I was enthralled with this book and found myself contemplating the social issues of intolerance and corruption as well as the harsh realness and reality that Umrigar is mirroring in Honor.


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.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Thirty Umrigar’s Honor is a heavy and dark novel but creates such an important narrative regarding intolerance and the ability of isolated intolerance to breed brutal and cruel events. Smita is sent to fill in for a colleague and friend to cover a story about Meena, a Hindi woman, who is seeking justice for the death of her Muslim husband who was burnt alive by her brothers, leaving her physically and emotionally scarred while raising their daughter, Abru, who will never meet her father. As a reader, you can see how Smita and other characters are confronted with the atrocities of this situation and how the corruption and discrimination are in stark contrast to the urban Mumbai as well as other Smita’s life in America.

Umrigar does such a great job of building the characters in Honor, making them feel incredibly real and distinct people. Mainly following Smita and Meena, you feel the struggles that both Smita and Meena have encountered, especially Smita is trying to reconcile her life in Brooklyn and her past prejudices of growing up in India. Meena helps to provide the narrative of an Indian woman, who tried to fight against the older traditions and bigotry of her town and has had firsthand experience of the brutality of the injustice and intolerance of the people of her town, including her brothers.

Overall, the pace of the plot in addition to the compelling narrative makes this a quick read that is rich with cultural detail and impressive character building. I felt drawn in and a part of the narrative early on in the book, and I was invested in the characters’ lives. Much of Honor was truly heartbreaking due to the content, but also due to the reality that this could and is happening in some parts of the world.

Find Honor on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


If you could pick a different culture to be immersed in as a reader, what would it be?

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