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25 November, 2005

Book Review: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

In the Space between us, Thrity Umrigar introduces us to Bhima and Sera Dubash. These are two women from vastly differing lifestyles whose lives become intertwined.

Bhima is a poor Hindu woman who is struggling to support herself and her granddaughter Maya. Maya has recently become pregnant while unwed, and will not admit to whom the father is. Because of this she is forced to drop out of collage which was the hope of her grandmother and her getting out of the slums.

Sera Dubash is an upper middle class Parsi widow. Her life seems perfect. She lives in a flat owned by her husband’s family; she has a beautiful and intelligent daughter. She can afford to hire Bhima as her house servant, to do cleaning around the house and to get things from the market for her. However, she is extremely unhappy. a state of being which has plagued her since her marriage to her late husband Feroz.

Despite their differences, Sera and Bhima develop a friendship of sorts over the twenty years that Bhima has been working for the Dubash household. Bhima brings her mistress‘ life a little bit of pleasure as she deals with her husbands uncontrollable rages. She becomes a surrogate mother to Sera’s daughter Dinaz, and brings cheerfulness into the household. Sera on the other hand finds in Bhima some one she can trust to soothe the bruises and hurt feelings, she treats Bhima’s granddaughter with kindness when she was brought to live with her grandmother in Bombay after being orphaned in Delhi. Over the years, Sera helps out Bhima when she can, she pays for Maya’s college tuition when it turns out how bright of a child she is.

Through the years, Bhima and Sera share heartbreaks, and joy, and love of a sort. Their world gets turned upside down when it is discovered that Maya has become pregnant.

Thrity Umrigar brings her readers to witness contemporary Bombay life with a fantastically crafted story. She uses her masterful writing style to bring us the readers into a world where life is a struggle. I was transported to a world that was very unfamiliar to me, and while the story is a sad one it ended leaving me with a haunting sense of longing to know more about the future of these two women. I was blown away by the depth of the characters and the descriptiveness of her phrasing. I haven’t read a book set in India that has grabbed hold of me and transported me across the globe like this one did, since I read A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry a few years back.

ISBN10: 0060791551
ISBN13: 9780060791551
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: January 2006
Binding: Hardcover