Occasionally you read a book so immersive and stunning, you can only hold on and settle in for the ride. I'm not usually an adult literary fiction gal but this one snuck in and smacked me sideways.
As a woman, stories centered on gender and gender freedoms vs. oppression are always hard hitters for me. This one was no exception—strap in, folks.
In different cultures, countries, and regions, the situation around a woman's freedom varies between relative freedom to unsettling/unsafe realities. In this particular story, the author delves into the following: What does it mean to be a woman here? What about over there?
Honor explores these questions of womanhood, freedom, and agency through an Indian lens when one woman comes back to India after an adulthood of American living and reckons with her personal freedoms versus those of the Indian women in her home country.
Indian-American journalist, Smita, returns to India at the beginning of this novel and discovers that she's been brought here for a serious reason—she's asked to cover the story of Meena, a Hindu woman who is experiencing a dangerous form of community-led hatred with Meena's recent decision to marry a Muslim man. Meena's situation is dire. Smita can help, especially because of her status as an Indian-American woman without the restrictions of the local landscape.
Smita sets herself on the case, knowing that doing this will open a can of worms. But she can't stop—Meena needs help.
Smita and Meena might both be Indian women, but their polar-opposite situations create a chasm for Smita as she is forced to reckon with her identity as an Indian-American woman and how much that differs from Meena's current reality.
With absolutely beautiful prose and a heartbreaking core, Honor is one of those novels that explores heavy, lingering concepts with a deftness that keeps you reading—and keeps you hoping for the end.
There are so many powerful themes at play here: sense of family, sense of duty and tradition, the threads of hope. The ties that bind and the cultural and community identities that cause harm while encouraging growth and family. The dualities at the heart of so many.
To be honest, I feel like my review is struggling to encompass the realities of this story in a way that at all resembles the beauty of this novel. I'm not usually at a loss for words, but for Honor the scope was different and the emotions were deeper. This was an unstoppable story, and I am honored (pun intended) at the offer to be a part of its initial press.
If you are interested in literary fiction and stories centered on women, I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
A near-perfect blend of atmospheric fiction mixed with a mystery. Not a standard mystery/thriller by any means...but a spectacular main character voice. I've added this author to my immediate "to watch" list and can see myself rereading this novel many times to come.
Main character/Narrative Voice: ★★★★★
Actual Mystery(s): ★★
Pure Enjoyment: ★★★★★
So first off, I think that this novel is weirdly placed in the mystery/thriller category on the shelves when really, it's an atmospheric literary fiction with some dead bodies in it.
It's like alternative take on a Jennifer McMahon, if you gutted all of her unnecessary meanderings and subplots (some people like them, I do not) and left us with just the vibes and atmosphere—and added a main character that pops right off the page and into your living room. Don't come for the devious and hard-to-grasp mystery—this is not a Christie whodunit. This is an atmospheric stay.
Dark Currents follows the story of David, a transgender man who is returning to his childhood small town of New Compton, Rhode Island, a few years after his transition and right on the heels of his recent firing from a university.
Why is David returning to his hometown, you might ask?
Because his grandma, who lives there alone, is in the downward swing of degenerative memory loss and he received a disturbing voicemail from her one night. There's a body, there's a lot of blood, there's a lobster, and there's a man in the dark. Can David come now!?
David rushes to the scene, but by the time he arrives his grandma's forgotten the whole thing and is surprised to see him there. But the dead body is real, and its grandma's neighbor and life-long old friend. It looks like an accident, but David can't be sure and neither can the town—their witness isn't exactly reliable, after all.
With small town secrets, histories, family, and more colliding into one tangle, it's up to David and his ex-boyfriend, town cop Billy Dyer, to solve the mystery and untangle the threads of the past before it's too late.
WOW. This writing voice. Every once in a while, you come across writing that just leaps off the page and into your room with you—the voice of the narrator is so strong and so vivid without being a distraction in its own right. Dark Currents is one of those books. I could practically hear David's voice in my head as I read these pages. I loved this book for that vividness alone as hardly any fiction does that for me these days.
Another thing I loved about this novel was that the story wasn't really about the mystery. It was about the people and their histories and how they converged in this particular point in time. Dark Currents has a bit of an oral history vibe to it, with vignettes of stories interspersed as David's grandma's friends tell him about the past while he tries to untangle the present. It also has a strong small town and maritime vibe, which also appealed to me. The sea and its secrets, and those who keep them.
Also, last but NOT least--this novel was hilarious too. Amid the extremely dark topics of murder, transphobia/PTSD, and degenerative memory loss and its affects on family, the dry one liners and situational humor that the author managed to organically fit into this story was just *chef's kiss*.
I loved it.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.