Book review: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

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  • Paperback: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st edition (February 6, 2007)

BOOK SYNOPSIS:

The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar’s poignant novel about a wealthy woman and her downtrodden servant, offers a revealing look at class and gender roles in modern day Bombay. Alternatively told through the eyes of Sera, a Parsi widow whose pregnant daughter and son-in-law share her elegant home, and Bhima, the elderly housekeeper who must support her orphaned granddaughter, the two women have a bond that goes far deeper than that of employer and employee.  But Sera’s seemingly privileged life is not as it appears; after enduring years of cruelty under her mother-in-law’s roof, she faced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband, pain that only Bhima could see and alleviate. Through their triumphs and tragedies, Sera and Bhima always shared a bond that transcended class and race; a bond shared by two women whose fate always seemed to rest in the hands of others, just outside their control.

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Told in a series of flashbacks and present day encounters, The Space Between Us gains strength from both plot and prose. A beautiful tale of tragedy and hope, Umrigar’s second novel is sure to linger in readers’ minds.

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Meet the author: 
static1.squarespaceThrity was born in Bombay, India and came to the U.S. when she was 21. As a Parsi child attending a Catholic school in a predominantly Hindu country, she had the kind of schizophrenic and cosmopolitan childhood that has served her well in her life as a writer. Accused by teachers and parents alike of being a daydreaming, head-in-the-clouds child, she grew up lost in the fictional worlds created by Steinbeck, Hemingway, Woolf and Faulkner. She would emerge long enough from these books to create her own fictional and poetic worlds. Encouraged by her practical-minded parents to get an undergraduate degree in business, Thrity survived business school by creating a drama club and writing, directing and acting in plays. Her first short stories, essays and poems were published in national magazines and newspapers in India at age fifteen.

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After earning a M.A. in journalism  in the U.S., Thrity worked for several years as an award-winning reporter, columnist and magazine writer. She also earned a Ph.D. in English. In 1999, Thrity won a one-year Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University, which is given to mid-career journalists.

Connect with the author:    Website     Twitter     Facebook

REVIEW:

Exquisitely penned. A compelling and touching narrative of two women, one living a life of privilege and the other forced to live in the squalor of a Mumbai slum. They cannot live as equals but they cannot live without each other. They are both pillars, yet their own peculiar frailties bind them together. Their two stories as well as the stories of those of their families intertwine in such a way that a dramatic turn of events may destroy them both.

If you enjoy reading world fiction, especially from India, this book will both intrigue and captivate you. Thrity Umrigar is a gifted storyteller.

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