Tuesday, July 24, 2018
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar is a book that I reread to familiarize myself with the story before moving on to The Secrets Between Us, the follow-up by the same author. Because I read The Space Between Us in 2006, just before I began blogging, I've never reviewed it anywhere beyond the website for HarperCollins' long-defunct First Look program, so I'm unable to link back to my thoughts at the time I first read it.
The Space Between Us is the story of Bhima and her relationship to her employer, Sera Dubash. Bhima has been working for Sera for 30 years. During that time, she has helped raise Sera's children, tended to the bruises inflicted by Sera's cruel husband and helped her through his death, cooked, shopped, cleaned. She's been a part of Sera's life and Sera has treated her well, yet looked down at Bhima as a resident of a Bombay slum, at the same time. Now, Bhima's granddaughter, Maya, has fallen pregnant. Sera has been paying for Maya's college education as a kindness to Bhima.
As Bhima tends to a granddaughter who is both depressed and suffering from morning sickness, she is often late for work and Sera is gradually becoming frustrated. The Dubash family encourages Bhima to take Maya for an abortion, the only way she can be saved from ruining her chances at finishing her education and hopefully improve her lot in life. While the present dilemma is described, the stories of both women unfold -- their marriages, hardships, and how the two women comforted each other through many crises. But, resentment is growing on both sides and when Bhima makes a shocking discovery, what will happen?
Highly recommended - Masterful storytelling. When I started reading The Space Between Us for the second time, I remembered more the feeling of the book than the story itself. I knew it had left me moved and uplifted, but beyond that I didn't remember a thing apart from where it was set and the fact that the main character had a rough life. So, I wasn't sure what to expect at all. Bhima's story is a tale of someone whose life gradually falls apart. She didn't begin her marriage in the slums and it's hard reading about the family's downfall. But, it ends on a glorious, hopeful note.
I think the most outstanding thing about The Space Between Us is the power of its shifting perspectives and the use of memories. Umrigar unfolds the two women's stories brilliantly, taking you back and forth in time to show their unfolding stories so seamlessly that you never get the sensation that you're leaping back and forth so much as the impression that the colors and dimensions of their lives and personalities are being filled in. Wonderful writing and I'm glad I had an excuse to revisit this story.
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