Book review: Rupi Kaur’s “Milk and Honey”

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Photo courtesy of Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Sometimes, poetry is the only way to tell a story.

As Rupi Kaur demonstrates in her heartfelt, refreshingly organic collection, “Milk and Honey,” which was first released in 2015, the best way to tell the most difficult tales is often through the simplest of words.

To call “Milk and Honey” a labor of love would be an understatement; as an introduction to her book, Kaur explains the work in prose matching its contents:

“this is the journey of

surviving through poetry

this is the blood sweat tears

of twenty-one years

this is my heart

in your hands…”

This statement could not be truer. “Milk and Honey” is, at its core, a semi-autobiography of Kaur’s feelings, emotions and thoughts during various periods of her life.

Available at the University of Dallas bookstore on display, the unassumingly thin volume is an experience worth exploring.

“Milk and Honey” is by no means a light read — it is difficult, often upsetting, and utilizes clever wording and detailed illustrations to get its many poignant themes across to the reader.

The novel is a challenging, forceful piece; for readers searching for literature that will make them question the world around them, think hard about the many constructs of modern society, and ponder the ways in which love can harm and help, Kaur’s book is a worthy endeavor.

Kaur has bestowed upon readers worldwide a work of head and heart, which will maintain its relevance for years to come.

If you want a book that will make you think and possibly make you cry, reach for this unique piece of literature which will undoubtedly be a topic of discussion for many years to come.

 

SUMMARY

 

Told in four parts — The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking and The Healing — “Milk and Honey” is a narration and fictionalization of Kaur’s life.

The Hurting describes, often graphically, the sexual abuse the author went through as a child and how it affected her concept of trust and confused her idea of love.

Opening with such a difficult topic might intimidate many readers, but the way Kaur approaches her tragic past is melodramatic and beautiful in its devastation, like a winter wood.

The poetry in The Hurting is indescribably raw. Kaur introduces her past and herself in a way that ensures us she will maintain her honesty and tempo for the rest of the novel.

In The Loving and The Breaking, Kaur aptly differentiates between an infatuated relationship and a truly loving one, and she shows how discovering the existence of the latter finally led her to understand how to love someone selflessly.

The Loving feels half-childish in nature, with love-struck poetry reminiscent of so many classical romantic poets. Kaur purposefully makes her writing in this portion ring naive, hopeful and adoring.

In contrast, The Breaking presents a more tragically mature narrator; it feels realistic, planted firmly in the ground of adulthood. Kaur takes this time to look back at her life and reflect on how her experiences led her to where she is now.

In the last and most profound part of the novel, Kaur ties all her story together in dozens of vibrant poems about love and self-care, bringing together the themes of the book and tying them neatly in a knot.

The Healing is as personal and sincere as its preceding parts, but breaks the fourth wall in quite a different way than the rest of the book.

Kaur’s poems in this part feel generous in their meaning; she is not just talking about her healing anymore, but the reader’s. She is not simply narrating her story anymore; she has made it yours.

“Milk and Honey” is a duality of bitterness and sugar wrapped up in a unique work of literature. To pick it up is to put yourself away awhile and step into another’s shoes and to finish it is to be gently placed back into your own.

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