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Posts Tagged ‘Thrity Umrigar’

 

They call it the Free Books for a Year Sweepstakes, I call it AMAZING!  The winner gets a dozen copies of a twelve specially-selected books; that’s enough to keep your book group busy for a year (or more if you take a summer hiatus)!!

Titles include:

I’ve only read a few of these books, and haven’t discussed any of them in our book group.  What a great way to kick off our 2008-2009 season!

Click here for all the details and entry form.

 

 

 

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  • The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (February 6, 2007)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • ISBN-10: 006079156X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060791568
  • SheIsTooFondOfBooks Rating:  4.5 Stars

 

 

 

 

 Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space Between Us, is a native of Bombay (now Mumbai) who came to the US for graduate school, and has worked here as a journalist for many years.  She was raised in a middle-class family, painfully aware of the class difference between her family and those of the domestic servants who came daily to help with household chores.  Umrigar has stated in interviews that her discomfort with these arrangements strongly influences her writing.

 

 

Her first novel, Bombay Time, visits the residents of an apartment building in Bombay, exploring not only their relationships with each other, but also their relationship to the city in which they live.  The Space Between Us tells the story of two interconnected families in Bombay; Umrigar continues to examine the connections and contrasts between the middle-class Parsis and the lower-class living in extreme poverty.

 

The story is set in contemporary Bombay, where Bhima, a domestic servant who lives in the slums, travels daily to the home of Sera (Serabai), a middle-class Parsi for whom Bhima has worked for twenty years.  As the novel unfolds, Umrigar volleys between these two main characters, parceling out bits of their separate pasts, as well as the history they share.  Bhima is raising her granddaughter, Maya; Sera has taken Maya under her wing and is funding her college education.  This education will help Maya break free from the oppressive poverty that her family has lived in for many generations; she will not work as a servant in another woman’s house.

 

Umrigar is a skilled storyteller, she creates beautiful flowing language and metaphors to illustrate.  When Maya wants to hear more about her past, Bhima carefully edits the information she reveals, “She sifts through her memories, as if she is sifting through the rice at Serabai’s house, removing the stones and the hard pieces, leaving behind what’s good and shiny.”  Similarly, Sera protects her own daughter when speaking of her father, “Sera went through the purse of her memory, hunting for a few gold coins.”  We see the similarities between the two women, and the efforts they make to put family first.

 

As in our own lives, the characters find that their lives don’t always follow the plans we have made for them.  Umrigar’s novel shows us the seemingly impenetrable “space between us” that can be caused by differences of class, gender or religion.  Bhima proves that in times of desperation, humans are resilient.  We are often able to draw inward and pull out the strength and courage we need to move past barriers set in our path.

 

The themes explored in  The Space Between Us are universal, not unique to the setting of Bombay.  It’s a book that we can all identify with, perhaps women more so than men.  I highly recommend it for the top-level storyline, the substructure of the motifs, and the skillfully-crafted writing that Thrity Umrigar offers.

 

Note:  The paperback Harper Perennial version I read has additional resources in the P.S. appendix.  These include additional background notes and an interview with the author, Umrigar’s writing tips, and an excerpt from her upcoming novel, If Today Be Sweet. 

 

I read this book as preparation to participate in an author interview with Thrity Umrigar on Book Club Girl.  During the interview, Umrigar answers readers’ questions, discusses how her early years influence her writing and talks about her current projects including the re-release of her memoir and an upcoming novel.  

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Did I get your attention with the title of this post?
The New York Times ran an article in the Arts section earlier this week (5/20/08 ) titled “One for the Ladies – and Their Friends.”  The gist of the article is that many women plan to see  the “Sex and the City” movie in groups, and have planned dinners, nights out, and weekends away from home to celebrate opening night of the movie.  Apparently this type of group viewing is more common to shows like “Star Wars” or the cult classic “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

 

 

 My husband read me an excerpt from the article and said (in jest?), “you should blog about that.”

 

Me:  “I don’t write about movies”

 

J:  “Why not?”

 

Me:  “I write about books, authors … quirky little things about language.”

 

J:  “But you wrote about book group names, and running a triathlon with women from your book group.  It seems a slippery slope to blogging about movies you watch with your book group, then restaurants you eat at together!”

 

Me:  “Well, I have to draw the line somewhere!”

 

But where to draw it?  I’ve been thinking about this over the past couple days.  My intent in creating SheIsTooFondOfBooks was as an offshoot of the cataloguing and reviewing I do on LibraryThing.  Sometimes I have a comment about a book that doesn’t constitute a review, and sometimes there are other (random?) book-related thoughts that I want to share.  This blog seems a good way to contain those thoughts, and it’s interesting to see what feedback and conversations develop.

 

Back to that line … I’ve decided that, yes, book reviews, and comments about authors and book-related musings are obviously going to have a prominent place here. Will there be asides about books that have inspired me in my life, and connections I’ve made because of them?  Will that “slippery slope” lead to a review of a movie based on a book I’ve read?  Is it crossing the line to discuss the Indian restaurant I visited after reading The Space Between Us?  Do all these questions sound at all like something Carrie Bradshaw would wonder?  Where do you draw the line?

(edited 5/24/08 to fix font size)

 

 

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