The Space Between Us - Thrity Umrigar

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.


Thrity Umrigar is adept and compelling in The Space Between Us—vividly capturing the social struggles of modern India in a luminous, addictively readable novel of honor, tradition, class, gender, and family. A portrayal of two women discovering an emotional rapport as they struggle against the confines of a rigid caste system, Umrigar’s captivating second novel echoes the timeless intensity of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible—a quintessential triumph of modern literary fiction.

*combination of Amazon & Goodreads





I was really intrigued by the concept of this novel but for some reason had put off reading it for quite awhile. Never seemed to get that "stop what you're doing and read this right now!" that sometimes comes to readers, more of a "meh, one day I'll check this out". Decided to just go ahead and get into it the other day. I really enjoyed Umrigar's writing style -- as far as things like word choices, sentence structure, metaphors, descriptions of environments, etc -- all of that was really beautiful. What sort of killed this book for me is that I realized I didn't really like any of the characters and as I was reading, I found certain passages unnecessarily violent and / or vulgar. The kind of thing where it just sounds like it was put that way for shock value -- which is a HUGE turn off for me when I'm reading. I just hate to see just poetic writing tarnished with sudden crass word choices that ruin the imagery for me. 


I was also a tad put off by the author interview at the end where Umrigar says this:


You know, when the book came out, my biggest concern was that Western readers would read The Space Between Us as a book about a distant, faraway, alien culture with weird customs -- you know, the usual "exotic East" syndrome -- and not get that the themes of the book are universal. At it's most basic, The Space Between Us is a book about what brings us together and what divides us as human beings. So it has been particularly gratifying to have smart, thoughtful, insightful readers make their own connections and apply the themes of their book to their own conditions and lives. So many of them have talked about their own encounters with the kind of issues that Bhima and Sera face.


Wow. Way to put faith in your readers. Isn't it natural for a reader to compare their own life experiences to that of book characters? Is that not what makes reading so entertaining? Who'd have thunk it that there are "smart, thoughtful, insightful readers" out there and not just a country full of xenophobes that make you want to facepalm when they open their mouths! 


So this one was a nope for me but I am curious to check out another of Umrigar's works, since I do elements of her writing style. Maybe I just started with the wrong book.