An honor killing shatters and transforms the lives of Turkish immigrants in 1970s London. Internationally best-selling Turkish author Elif Shafak’s new novel is a dramatic tale of families, love, and misunderstandings that follows the destinies of twin sisters born in a Kurdish village. While Jamila stays to become a midwife, Pembe follows her Turkish husband, Adem, to London, where they hope to make new lives for themselves and their children. In London, they face a choice: stay loyal to the old traditions or try their best to fit in. After Adem abandons his family, Iskender, the eldest son, must step in and become the one who will not let any shame come to the family name. And when Pembe begins a chaste affair with a man named Elias, Iskender will discover that you could love someone with all your heart and yet be ready to hurt them. Just published to great acclaim in England, Honor is a powerful, gripping exploration of guilt and innocence, loyalty and betrayal, and the trials of the immigrant, as well as the love and heartbreak that too often tear families apart.
©2012 Elif Shafak (P)2013 Recorded Books
Honor tells the story of several members of a Turkish-Kurdish family, extending over several generations and taking place in Turkey, the UK, and Abu Dhabi. It centers around Iskandar, a man about to be released from an English prison. His crime: the honor killing of his mother when he was a teenager. The novel weaves back and forth through time: from the birth of his mother, Pemba, and her twin, Jamila; to Iskandar's fleeing from his circumcision; to Pemba's marriage to Aden in a Kurdish village and their early years in London; to the youngest son's infatuation with a punk girl; to Aden's drinking, gambling, and eventual desertion; to Pemba's meetings with Elias; to young Aden's memories of his depressed mother; to Iskandar's prison experiences; and finally to a rather surprising conclusion.
If this sounds a bit complex and confusing, well, yes, it is at first. So many voices, so many stories, so much jumping around in time. But I got used to it and eventually sorted everyone out. Part of the reason for the odd chronology is, I'm sure, to make the point that events have an impact on future generations. For example, Aden was excessively indulged by his mother, and so was Iskandar, and both turned out to have little regard for the feelings of others. Pemba had seen a sister literally die of shame, yet she finds herself the object of an honor killing. The family has moved from Turkey to London, and the children live very modern lives, yet Iskandar gets caught up in the Muslim traditionalist movement. Once I sorted out the initial complications, I enjoyed making the connections in the various sections. I found the characters unique and compelling, and the two readers were both excellent. I look forward to reading more by Elif Shafak.
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