I absolutely love Thrity Umrigar's writing and there is nothing negative that I can say about The World We Found. I just want to make that clear, up front. Her writing is really quite stunning. I read The Space Between Us in 2005, pre-blogging, and some of the images from that book are still seared into my brain. I don't think I'll ever forget the ending and I've desired to read more of her writing, ever since.
So, why did I set The World We Found aside? Because nearly 4 years after watching my mother take her last breath, I still cannot bear to read about a character dying of cancer. If anyone could get me past that mental block, I think it would be Thrity Umrigar. But, apparently not even her skill and the knowledge that the book is about old friends gathering together one last time (I do love a book about a gathering of close female friends) was enough to keep me going. It was this bit that stopped me:
Armaiti nodded absently, remembering the small, dark bedroom in which her mother had died. After staying up half the night holding her mother's hand she had finally dosed [sic] off for a few minutes. When she awoke her mother's hand was cold and she was dead. Armaiti had sat holding that hand, taking in the bald head, the sunken eyes, the bony forearms whose papery skin was covered with bluish-black marks. She had not cried. Not then. Instead . . .
[--p. 17, Advanced Reader's Edition of The World We Found; changes may have been made to the final edition]
I stopped right there, unable to breathe, to read another word. It's not my experience, not exactly. But, the description of Armaiti's mother's body . . . oh, man. Too, too close. I couldn't go on. I don't want to live with Armaiti as she says goodbye to her friends, her family, and life. I don't want to be reminded of my loss. Coincidentally, I also lost an aunt to brain cancer, Armaiti's killer disease.
You can tell how mature and lovely Umrigar's writing is, just from the excerpt, though, can't you? I flipped back to the cover flap to see if I'd overlooked the word "cancer" when I requested The World We Found from HarperCollins. Nope, they used the words "gravely ill". That assuages my guilt a bit. I've offered my copy of The World We Found to a blogging buddy who happens to have it listed as a book she intends to read and am waiting for a response to see if she already owns a copy. Regardless, I'll find the book a home it deserves, where it can be read fully and appreciated.
Update: I have found a new (blogging buddy!) home for my copy of The World We Found! Very happy about that. Many thanks to all for the support. Your comments mean the world to me.