Wednesday, August 08, 2018
The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar is a sequel, so first things first . . . here's my review of the first book:
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
If you haven't read The Space Between Us, the ending might be a bit of a spoiler but it's necessary to mention the general concept before moving on. So, fair warning . . . I'm going to skip a line before talking about The Secrets Between Us to avoid spoiling it for anyone.
*******POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING********
Bhima has always been treated kindly by her long-term employer but at the same time she's been treated as if she's dirty, never allowed to sit on the furniture and made to squat on the floor while she had her tea. She cared for her employer's family as if they were her own. But, then she made a shocking discovery and she no longer works for Sera Dubash.
Now, she must find a way to support herself and her granddaughter, Maya. To do so, she finds not one but two new jobs, cleaning for a crazy woman she calls "Mrs. Motorcyclewalla" and a young woman. As with her old job, there are challenges. Mrs. Motorcyclewalla increasingly makes irrational demands of Bhima and seems to be growing more delusional each day. And, when her younger employer, Sunita, moves in a surprisingly open and untraditional roommate who has lived outside of India, Bhima is horrified by her unconventional nature.
When a neighbor in the slum is unexpectedly widowed, Bhima takes on a third job. Her neighbor's deceased husband had purchased some fruit. It can't be returned for cash; it must be sold to be of any value. So, Bhima agrees to find a way to help her sell the fruit. But, to do so, Bhima must find space at the market and a way to balance her other jobs -- and that means humbling herself to pay a bitter old woman to share her space. But, there's more to that older woman than meets the eye. As Bhima gets to know Parvati and work with both her and the man who used to carry her basket when she went to the market for her former employer, they slowly find that each has secrets from her past and pain that can never be fully vanquished. But, they also begin to forge a surprising friendship.
Highly recommended - I feel privileged to have read both The Space Between Us (12 years ago!) and The Secrets Between Us as ARCs. Both are harsh but uplifting stories, but The Secrets Between Us is extra special because it is the story of a makeshift family, one of my favorite types of story. The ending is so utterly perfect that I closed the book with shoulder-heaving sobs. It was everything I had always hoped for for Bhima and Maya. I recommend reading the two stories back-to-back as The Secrets Between Us picks up Bhima's story just days after the first book's ending and then jumps forward by a year. You'll understand Bhima and care for her deeply by the end of The Space Between Us and The Secrets Between Us will be much more meaningful if you read them together.
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