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.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.