Book Review: Honor

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Honor Penworthy is a well-to-do young woman who is heiress to her family’s Maryland plantation. She has made it known that she plans to free the plantation’s slaves once her grandfather passes away. As a result, her grandfather writes Honor out of his will, and she is suddenly left penniless and homeless upon his death. Honor and her maid Royale travel to Pennsylvania where Honor has a distant relative. Upon arriving to Miriam’s home, Honor meets Miriam’s grown son, Samuel Cathwell, who is a skilled glassmaker. Samuel is also deaf. Samuel communicates with his mother through sign language, and Honor is quick to catch on. Soon, they marry out of mutual benefit and convenience–Honor needs to be financially supported, and Samuel needs someone to help him communicate with the hearing world, as well as help him raise his young nephew who was left in his care after Samuel’s brother died.
Soon, the Cathwells move to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Honor joins an anti-slavery movement within the Quaker community. She becomes involved in hiding runaway slaves, and does so without telling her husband. The book focuses on slavery as well as the relationship between Honor and Samuel. Can they grow to love each other? Can trust be found?
I have to review this book from a totally different perspective. I’m the mother of a deaf child, so this book really hit home for me. I appreciated how Lyn Cote, the author of Honor, showed how deafness can impact a person’s entire world, and the world of those around him. Samuel was mistrustful of hearing people because they didn’t treat him with respect. He was treated only a little better than the slaves because of his disability.
The one thing that bugged me (and it reallllllly bugged me. I had to put the book down a few times because of it), was the premise that Honor could meet a deaf man and become fluent in sign language within a month. For one, sign language was in its infancy in 1819, so there weren’t the vast amount of known signs as there are today. Secondly, sign language is a language, and there are nuances and rules and completely different grammar rules as English. It would not be possible to learn the language enough to communicate in full conversations with her husband just a month after they met. Like any language, learning takes time and being exposed to new words. Honor wouldn’t suddenly just *know* how to “speak” with her hands. It takes a lot of time, and a LOT of practice. As in years and not months.
If that won’t bug you, it is a pretty good read, but I just couldn’t get past the sign language issues. I did like the progression and growth of the characters, however.

*Tyndale Publishers provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own.
 

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