Friday, August 24, 2012

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Completion Date: July 25, 2012
Reason for Reading: TLC Book Tour.
Poignant, evocative, and unforgettable, The Space Between Us is an intimate portrait of a distant yet familiar world. Set in modern-day India, it is the story of two compelling and achingly real women: Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose opulent surroundings hide the shame and disappointment of her abusive marriage, and Bhima, a stoic illiterate hardened by a life of despair and loss, who has worked in the Dubash household for more than twenty years. A powerful and perceptive literary masterwork, author Thrity Umrigar’s extraordinary novel demonstrates how the lives of the rich and poor are intrinsically connected yet vastly removed from each other, and how the strong bonds of womanhood are eternally opposed by the divisions of class and culture.
I sure had a moment with this book. It was August 7th and I was apologizing for missing my date. I had it in my head that I was supposed to post on the 6th. It turned out it was the 7th and I could have posted on time after all. It's a nice thing that Trish and Lisa are easy-going when you have moments. And, now, here I am finally posting about a book I finished almost exactly a month ago. Hopefully I can remember what I am talking about.

I had heard a lot about Thrity Umrigar, but this is the first time I have ever picked up one of her books to read. I haven't read a lot of books set in India and thought it was about time I read one of the voices of that culture. This tour seemed like the perfect way to do so. I am thinking that I am glad that I read this book, she is a good writer, but I don't think she is for me. I can appreciate what people like about her and still recommend her, but I don't think I personally would rush out and read her again. I enjoyed the glimpse of the India culture, but I have never been big on family dramas set in the modern period. I just thought the different culture would make up for what typically disinterests me, but sadly it did not. Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't hate this book. I just didn't find it was for me.

Moving on. This is the story about a grandmother who works for a prosperous family in India. Her daughter and son-in-law have died of AIDs, so she is raising her granddaughter on her own. After a run of bad luck her husband has left her and taken their son with him. So, it is just the two of them. She lived for a time in better circumstances, but is now forced to live in the slums. The graphic descriptions of her living situation are appalling. Her granddaughter was supposed to go to university, get a good job, and move up in the world. Unfortunately the world has a different idea in mind for her. The book is an exploration of the class system and how those from the 'upper classes' have the upper-hand on those from the lower classes. This becomes even more apparent as the novel progresses.

It was a very illuminating glimpse into India culture. And, despite saying it wasn't for me I didn't mind reading it. I haven't read very many books that deal with the situation in India so I learned things I didn't know before. It was interesting to see the situation for women versus men, too. The main character is a woman so you see everything through her viewpoint. But the book also switches to her employer and how things are for her. She may have more money and a better situation, but things are not perfect for her. She had lived a rocky road and it was also interesting to learn more about what life was like for her.

This is not a light read. I found that I had to step away from it from time to time instead of just reading straight through. There are some truly heart-breaking situations and overwhelming circumstances. I felt bad for both Sera, the upper-class woman, and Bhima, the lower-class woman. They both had their problems that were sad to see. It was an illuminating read.

Recommended.

5 comments:

  1. I had to go back and read my own review because I thought I had a similar reaction. And I did. I thought I would adore the author, but there was just something that made me think one was enough.

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  2. This one seems interesting. I've been very curious about Indian culture lately after my roommate was there for a month on business.

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  3. There are certain books that just don't click with certain readers so I can understand your disconnect with this one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it for the tour.

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  4. I somehow suspect that I might have a similar reaction to this as you did. That I would ultimately enjoy it, and very much appreciate it, but then not really rush to read more. Mostly because I just think I've been feeling impatient in my reading lately, and this doesn't sound like the kind of book you just breeze through, more the kind of book that requires one to slow down to take it all in. Though maybe I'm wrong about that?

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  5. I really loved this book when I read it and while I've enjoyed the author's other books immensely, this one is still my favorite. It was such a sad book . . . I am sorry you didn't like this one more. I can see why not everyone would take to it quite as much as I did.

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