Now Reading: The Space Between Us

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This is my first time posting a book review. I can’t promise that it’s something that I’m going to do on a regular basis. I read too much for that (as one can tell from the Now Reading section of my blog). However every now and then I come across a book so profound that I must share it with others.

This is one such book.

Quick Synopsis: The Space Between Us is set in contemporary India. Bombay to be exact. The story surrounds two main characters, Sera Dubash, an upper middle class widow, and Bhima, Sera’s long-term house servant. There is no plot per se but rather a wonderfully woven tale about the lives of these two women. The story flows back and forth between describing their day-to-day struggles and revealing their past. Sera is a women trying to find balance between her obvious class privilege and the strained friendship she has with her servant, Bhima. The servant, Bhima, is an old woman, uneducated though wise in her naivety, burdened with loss and the responsibility of taking care of her only grandchild, Maya. There is a much more to the story than this but I’d rather not ruin the plot for prospective readers.

From the very first paragraph the author, Thrity Umrigar, had me completely engaged. The author is an awesome story-teller and her style of writing has the reader truly believing in the story. Umrigar is so precise in developing her characters, illustrating their strengths and flaws, describing their complexities and prejudices, that the reader can’t help but relate to them. Umrigar does an excellent job at showing how each of the characters are interconnected yet separated. What’s unique about Umrigar is that she reveals the mystery behind each character in small doses, rather than exposing them immediately. She creates a space in which the reader is literally getting to know each character as the book progresses. It’s enough to make the reader want to keep reading, as I did.  I finished this book in less than two days.

What makes The Space Between Us so powerful is that the author is writing about topics that transcend culture and time. Though the story is set in India and describes a complicated and foreign community (to most of us anyway) the themes such as tradition,  prejudice, taboo, class division, family ties, nationalism, are all things that anyone can identify with regardless of where their place is in life.

This book as about the human experience and how we relate to others. If not the content, then the story-telling alone is enough to read this book. I totally recommend it.

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