No Honour by Awais Khan
In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by, and her family’s honour to protect. And, yet, her spirit is defiant and she yearns to make a home with the man she loves.
When the unthinkable happens, Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances – certain, public death. Fired by a fierce determination to resist everything she knows to be wrong about the society into which she was born, and aided by her devoted father, Jamil, who puts his own life on the line to help her, she escapes to Lahore and then disappears.
Jamil goes to Lahore in search of Abida – a city where the prejudices that dominate their village take on a new and horrifying form – and father and daughter are caught in a world from which they may never escape.
Moving from the depths of rural Pakistan, riddled with poverty and religious fervour, to the dangerous streets of over-populated Lahore, No Honour is a story of family, of the indomitable spirit of love in its many forms … a story of courage and resilience, when all seems lost, and the inextinguishable fire that lights one young woman’s battle for change.
Having read No Honour (Orenda Books) by Awais Khan during the last week of August I have been thinking about this book ever since. Trying to find the right words for this outstanding and poignant novel has been hard. As you read through the opening of the book you know immediately this is going to be a difficult and at times harrowing read.
In a small Pakistani village sixteen-year-old Abida lives with her family. This is a village were age old rules that must be obeyed. Her father Jamil loves his daughter, but the families honour must come first as the rules say. Girls are not allowed to go to school and must not disobey and uphold the families honour. But Abida loves Kalim and an intimate relationship begins. We find out that in a similar situation we find out that other young women have been murdered to protect the honour of the family.
Now Abida must flee the village before she is found out and faces a similar fate. Jamil loves his daughter and so he aids her escape rather than the public death that will follow. Abida now finds herself in the big city of Lahore. Very quickly she finds out that life here is going to be no better and in fact things start to get out of control. This is no life for a young strong minded young woman. Meanwhile her father Jamil recalls how he was brought up by his mother and how strong willed she was and now he sets off to find his daughter. Soon they are trapped in a desperate dark world where drugs and prostitution and corruption seem the norm. All Abida wanted was a new life for herself her child and Kalim. The narrative of the story alternates between Abida and her father Jamil and you may think that reading this that the novel is just too horrific to read and yes at times it is graphic and hard to read but what there is here is hope and Awais Khan has written a beautiful story.
As I read through No Honour, I wanted Abida to find the freedom to bring up her child and settle down with Kalim and Abida’s father who risked everything and the shame it would bring to his family. But love for his daughter is more means everything to him. This is an important book and there were times it felt as though my heart had just been ripped out. All I will say is here is that the one thing we have is hope, and we cling to that like a life raft.
What an outstanding writer Awais Khan really is. I await to see what comes next.
My thanks to Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) for the review copy of No Honour by Awais Khan.
No Honour by Awais Khan is published by Orenda Books and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org