Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Space Between Us - Book Review

In The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar takes her readers around the planet to Bombay, India which at first seems like a completely different world with it's own unique cultures and customs. However, the people in India are just that--people. And people really aren't that different from each other whether they live in Bombay, Salt Lake City or Copenhagen--we all dream for a better future, for love, for understanding.

Umrigar tells this story of human desires in the setting of Bombay where the very poor work in the houses of the middle class (labor is very cheap and they lack the conveniences such as dishwashers and washing machines, so even the middle class have maids). There are distinct divisions between the classes. Even the most well treated maids must use separate dishes and are not allowed to sit on the furniture.  

Bhima has worked for Sera for many many years. They have become close and over the years Sera has paid for Bhima's granddaughter Maya to attend school and college. Now seventeen year old Maya is pregnant and everyone around her insists that she have an abortion so that she can return to college and not "ruin" her life. The destruction of the child will have lasting effects for both Bhima and Sera's families.

Bhima and Sera are not so very different in their personal desires and neither, whether learned and well-off or impoverished and illiterate, have had much power to direct the flow of their own lives.

The descriptions of the slums in which Bhima and Maya live are raw. Umrigar is a skilled weaver of beautiful and powerful fiction. She writes so well that I felt as if I were walking along the beach with Bhima and buying balloon animals from her balloonwalla or breathing in the smells from the open air market.

Dealing with painful subjects such as extreme poverty, abortion, rape and illiteracy (not unique to India), this is not a novel that will warm you heart. However, Umrigar treats these subjects with dignity and honesty through the sensitive eyes of two believable and likable characters.

I found the novel both gripping and heart breaking. It moved me.


Momnerd said...

Looks great! Can't wait to get mine!

alisonwonderland said...

I'm going to read this soon!