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The Space Between Us [Kindle Edition]

Thrity Umrigar
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (362 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
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Book Description

“This is a story intimately and compassionately toldagainst the sensuous background of everyday life in Bombay.” —Washington Post Book World
 
“Bracingly honest.” —New York Times Book Review
 
The author of Bombay Time,If Today Be Sweet, and The Weight of Heaven, Thrity Umrigar is at adept andcompelling in The Space Between Us—vividlycapturing the social struggles of modern India in a luminous, addictivelyreadable novel of honor, tradition, class, gender, and family. A portrayal oftwo woman discovering an emotional rapport as they struggle against theconfines of a rigid caste system, Umrigar’scaptivating second novel echoes the timeless intensity of ZoraNeale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were WatchingGod, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows inBrooklyn, and Barbara Kingsolver’s ThePoisonwood Bible—a quintessential triumph of modern literary fiction.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar's poignant novel about a wealthy woman and her downtrodden servant, offers a revealing look at class and gender roles in modern day Bombay. Alternatively told through the eyes of Sera, a Parsi widow whose pregnant daughter and son-in-law share her elegant home, and Bhima, the elderly housekeeper who must support her orphaned granddaughter, Umrigar does an admirable job of creating two sympathetic characters whose bond goes far deeper than that of employer and employee.

When we first meet Bhima, she is sharing a thin mattress with Maya, the granddaughter upon whom high hopes and dreams were placed, only to be shattered by an unexpected pregnancy and its disastrous consequences. As time goes on, we learn that Sera and her family have used their power and money time and time again to influence the lives of Bhima and Maya, from caring for Bhima's estranged husband after a workplace accident, to providing the funds for Maya's college education. We also learn that Sera's seemingly privileged life is not as it appears; after enduring years of cruelty under her mother-in-law's roof, she faced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband, pain that only Bhima could see and alleviate. Yet through the triumphs and tragedies, Sera and Bhima always shared a bond that transcended class and race; a bond shared by two women whose fate always seemed to rest in the hands of others, just outside their control.

Told in a series of flashbacks and present day encounters, The Space Between Us gains strength from both plot and prose. A beautiful tale of tragedy and hope, Umrigar's second novel is sure to linger in readers' minds. --Gisele Toueg

From Publishers Weekly

Umrigar's schematic novel (after Bombay Time) illustrates the intimacy, and the irreconcilable class divide, between two women in contemporary Bombay. Bhima, a 65-year-old slum dweller, has worked for Sera Dubash, a younger upper-middle-class Parsi woman, for years: cooking, cleaning and tending Sera after the beatings she endures from her abusive husband, Feroz. Sera, in turn, nurses Bhima back to health from typhoid fever and sends her granddaughter Maya to college. Sera recognizes their affinity: "They were alike in many ways, Bhima and she. Despite the different trajectories of their lives—circumstances... dictated by the accidents of their births—they had both known the pain of watching the bloom fade from their marriages." But Sera's affection for her servant wars with ingrained prejudice against lower castes. The younger generation—Maya; Sera's daughter, Dinaz, and son-in-law, Viraf—are also caged by the same strictures despite efforts to throw them off. In a final plot twist, class allegiance combined with gender inequality challenges personal connection, and Bhima may pay a bitter price for her loyalty to her employers. At times, Umrigar's writing achieves clarity, but a narrative that unfolds in retrospect saps the book's momentum. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 464 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; 1st edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FCKM74
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,599 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
197 of 208 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Using turbulent India, with all its social, environmental and economic problems as a background, author Thrity Umrigar tells a very humanistic tale of love, loss and ultimately betrayal. Two very different women who, in their struggle to cope with their heartache and sorrow, discover an inevitable commonality, a spiritual unity, even though they are divided by the seemingly insurmountable gulf of money, opportunity and class.

Sera Dubash is a wealthy educated Parsi, who lives a privileged upper-class life in Bombay. Her married life fraught with violence and brutality, she ached for a marriage that was different from all the "dead sea of marriages she saw all around her," a marriage begun with such high hopes that fizzled out. Now she is widowed and lives happily with her daughter and son-in-law, looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild.

Bhima is poor and illiterate, forced to eek out an existence on the edges of Bombay, enduring the stench and fifth, the open drains with their dank pungent smell, the dark rows of slanting hutments, the gaunt and open-mouthed men. Bhima has worked for years as Sera's domestic housekeeper, and has built up a trustworthy relationship with her employer's family; Sera's the only person who treats her like a human being, has been steadfast and true to her, and never despised her for being ignorant, or illiterate or weak. Sera even promises to financially help Bhima's granddaughter Maya go to college. But no one - least of all Bhima - expects the seventeen-year-old Maya to get pregnant.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating and Moving July 13, 2007
Format:Paperback
Yet another wonderful and moving novel by Thrity Umrigar. The story vividly unfolds on each page, and I found myself unable to put the book down. It tells the story of Bhima and Sera, two people who's lives are very much different, but in many ways the same. Yes, there is much sadness in this book. However, that sadness is there for a reason and is meant to be thought-provoking. It forces you evaluate your life and your relationships. It also helps you to better understand not only the person you are, but the kind of person you want to be. The character of Bhima moved me the most, and will live on in my heart.
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68 of 76 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars At Times, The Writing Is Utterly Beautiful, BUT.... July 14, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was immediately drawn into this book which, at first, seemed so promising. Found Bhima's plight to be very compelling. Sera's situation was awful also, but I was still interested in their stories. I think that, for me, the story fell apart when the truth of Maya's predicament unfolded. I don't really know why, but I simply stopped caring.... This was Bhima's & Sera's story and should have remained as such. Again, the writing -- especially describing Bhima's entire story [the hut, the hospital scenes, etc.] -- was, for me, very real & beautifully rendered. However, the ending was unconvincing, in my humble opinion. Extremely disappointed given such a beguiling & goregous beginning!! [I probably would have rated this book a 2 Star read if not for the writing, as well as for Bhima's story [initially a 4 star which unravelled into soap opera].
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
"Or perhaps it is that time doesn't heal all wounds at all, perhaps that is the biggest lie of them all, and instead what happens is that each wound penetrates the body deeper and deeper until one day you find that the sheer geography of your bones-has collapsed under the weight of your grief." Sprinkling it with heartbreakingly beautiful passages like this one, with The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar earns her rightful place amongst India's great storytellers. Within these pages you won't find easy lives or happy endings. What you will find is the authenticity of life, replete with all its trials, tribulations, heartache and betrayal. Friendship between the most unlikely of women, divided by class and caste, frames this novel, proving that neither one's familial nor financial inheritance can shelter her from the sorrow of this world. Yet for all its antiquated underpinnings, The Space Between Us is chockfull of modern-day issues like abortion, adultery and domestic violence, making it intensely current and relatable. Readers from all walks of life will quickly forget the "space between" Bhima and Sera and soon see them as regular women who are "living for more than just themselves." With its characters still haunting me, The Space Between Us earns my high recommendation.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just short of sublime May 27, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The earliest chapters were pleasant, but not totally enthralling, so it took me a while to finish this book. But I was eventually pulled in and drawn along by prose and storytelling of the highest quality. The interplay between the upper class Sera and her poor servant Bhima is well told, as are the many surrounding subplots. Both the similar and the different challenges faced by very different social classes are illuminated in the telling of parallel lives. Central to the story is how Sera and Bhima form an intimate relationship without every overcoming the separation of social class that prevents a friendship between them.

The novel is driven by the unfortunate pregnancy of Bhima's granddaughter, Maya, which thwarts the college education both Bhima and Sera want for her. After many a subplot and flashback develops the history of the protagonists, there is a sudden revelation that upsets everything. Up to this point there is little to criticize.

The short denouement following the revelation is more problematical. While fitting with the class divisions illuminated throughout the novel, it is harder to reconcile with the personalities of the protagonists created by the author. I was left at the end feeling that the last few pages didn't quite ring true.

I don't want to spoil the story by discussing more detail because I do think this book is well worth reading. Take the opportunity and form your own opinion about the ending.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Thin plot line and overmuch introspection
This book was very thin on story line and heavy with introspection, remembering, and emotionalizing!!! Read more
Published 8 days ago by carol
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
It was good. Very fascinating to see how they live there in India, and the difference between the classes. Shocking, really. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Beth
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
The ending was very disappointing.
Published 9 days ago by Bobbie Gross
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much foreign language untranslated
The story was good, the characters very rich and well developed, and the author is very skillful with metaphors and lyrical descriptions. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Gary Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars philosophical meditation on gender and class in Bombay, best read with...
I'm very glad I read Katherine Boo's fictiony, non-fiction book about a slum in Mumbai before I read Thrity Umrigar's book, "The Space Between Us. Read more
Published 13 days ago by kbirdlincoln
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Great characters but not a realistic or victorious enough ending for me.
Published 19 days ago by Elizabeth E. Wayne
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragic and enlightening
A beautifully crafted, but difficult-to-read novel, full of vivid and desperate images of life in India. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Sandy Millar
4.0 out of 5 stars India sad wished it ended on a uplifting note but not ...
Lets you think about the age old caste system in the new? India sad wished it ended on a uplifting note but not to be.
Published 23 days ago by Colette C.
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an awesome story told by a master writer
This is an awesome story told by a master writer. The characters are real people with real-life problems and relationships. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Denise C.
3.0 out of 5 stars and that they banded together and tossed Bima out like some old trash
I was mad by the time I finished the book because I cannot stand injustice against humanity. I understand that there are different customs in India regarding the upper and lower... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Victoria W. Crawford
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More About the Author

Thrity Umrigar is the best-selling author of the novels Bombay Time, The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet and The Weight of Heaven. She is also the author of the memoir, First Darling of the Morning. Her books have been translated into many languages and published in numerous countries.

The Space Between Us was a finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins award, while her memoir was a finalist for the Society of Midland Authors award. Thrity was recently awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize for midcareer artists.

Thrity was born in Bombay, India and came to the U.S. when she was 21. As a Parsi child attending a Catholic school in a predominantly Hindu country, sh had the kind of schizophrenic and cosmopolitan childhood that has served her well in her life as a writer. Accused by teachers and parents alike of being a daydreaming, absent-minded child, she grew up lost in the fictional worlds created by Steinbeck, Hemingway, Woolf and Faulkner. She would emerge long enough from these books to create her own fictional and poetic worlds. Encouraged by her practical-minded parents to get an undergraduate degree in business, Thrity survived business school by creating a drama club and writing, directing and acting in plays. Her first short stories, essays and poems were published in national magazines and newspapers in India at age fifteen.

After earning a M.A. in journalism Thrity worked for several years working as an award-winning reporter, columnist and magazine writer in America. She also earned a Ph.D. in English. In 1999, Thrity won a one-year Nieman Fellowship to Harvard, which is given to mid-career journalists.

While at Harvard, Thrity wrote Bombay Time. The publication and success of the novel allowed her to make a career change and in 2002 she accepted a teaching position at Case Western Reserve University, where she teaches creative writing, journalism and literature. She also does occasional freelance pieces for national publications and has written for the Washington Post's and the Boston Globe's book pages.


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