by Umrigar, Thrity

An Indian American journalist returns home to cover the story of a Hindi woman attacked by her own family for marrying a Muslim and deals with a society that places more weight on tradition than one's heart. 50,000 first printing.

Thrity Umrigar is the bestselling author of eight novels, including The Space Between Us, which was a finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award, as well as a memoir and three picture books. Her books have been translated into several languages and published in more than fifteen countries. She is the winner of a Lambda Literary Award and a Seth Rosenberg Award and is Distinguished Professor of English at Case Western Reserve University. A recipient of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard, she has contributed to the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Huffington Post.

Journalist Smita Agarwal was just 14 when she and her family left India for the U.S. The circumstances of their sudden exit seemed to ensure that she would never go back to her homeland. But when Shannon, a colleague and a friend, asks for help, Smita does return to India, where she finds herself covering an explosive court case. A Hindu woman, Meena, is seeking justice after her brothers burned her Muslim husband alive and left her scarred beyond recognition. Smita travels to the countryside and unearths the circumstances of the horrific tragedy with the help of a local fixer, Mohan. She also tries to make peace with her own painful past. Umrigar (The Secrets between Us, 2018) 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. Will justice be served, or will the trial only add fuel to the fire? The somewhat predictable ending notwithstanding, this is a thought-provoking portrait of an India that "felt inexpressibly large-as well as small and provincial enough to choke." HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Umrigar is a library favorite and readers will be talking about this intense, incisive, and timely drama. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

An Indian woman who's spent most of her life in the United States develops a bond with a woman in rural India who's been subjected to appalling violence. Returning to the topic of India's evolution, Umrigar delivers the discussion through the admittedly biased perspective of Indian-born, U.S.-raised journalist Smita Agarwal. Immigrating with her family to Ohio at age 14, Smita "had vowed never to step foot into India again," for reasons revealed only late in the book. But then her friend Shannon, the South Asia correspondent for her newspaper, breaks her hip, and Smita, who's vacationing nearby, flies into Mumbai to support her in the hospital. Shannon's injury has forced her to abandon an important story that fits Smita's beat of gender issues, and Smita now finds herself taking on the assignment, one which will force her to deal "with everything that she detested about this country-its treatment of women, its religious strife, its conservatism." All these unpleasant traits and more are encapsulated in the tale of Meena Mustafa, a Hindu village girl whose scandalous work in a factory, marriage to Abdul, a Muslim, and pregnancy affront her two brothers, who respond violently "to protect the honor of all Hindus." They burn Abdul alive, leaving Meena surviving but badly disfigured. 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. The horror and Meena's intense suffering also contrast uneasily with a late love story for Smita-"He was the best of what India had to offer"-and some binary, not always plausible choices. A graphic parable of contemporary India delivered in broad brush strokes. Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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