The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us

by Thrity Umrigar

Overview: 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.

Debbie Weiss (11/15/14): The Space Between Us was an interesting book, contrasting the lives of two women of different casts in India. I have to agree with Dale on this one --- very depressing with little in the way of hope or happiness. There is a theme of domestic violence and male domination that permeates the book. Perhaps this is just part of the Indian culture, but it is still very difficult to accept. This was a book I read for my book club and it generated a very good discussion. The most interesting disagreement among the members of the book club was about what was going through the mind of the main character, Bhima, at the very end of the book. I didn't particularly like the ending because I thought it left too many loose ends and I was expecting another chapter to follow.
Rating: ***

Dale Israel: Typically I either like a book...or I don't. Having just turned the last page of The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar,however, I'm conflicted about how I feel. On the one hand, I can certainly understand why the majority of people on Amazon rated it 4 1/2 stars out of 5. It was engrossing and a beautifully written story that kept my attention and allowed me to escape and learn something about life. It was powerful on so many levels. On the other hand, it was one of the darkest, most depressing books I've ever read in my life: physical abuse, dire poverty, mental abuse, loss of limbs, alcoholism, loss of children, loss of a husband, loss of a close relationship...I could go on and on. And while loss is certainly a universal theme, there simply wasn't a glimmer of hope anywhere in this book. The more I read this book the more depressed I became. I hated picking it up because I knew I would be confronted with more sadness...would it ever end? Yet, I had to pick it up again and keep reading because it was so well written. Though I'm not a member of a book club, I would love to discuss this book with other people and perhaps contrast it with The Help. So my dilemma is, what rating do I give it? I understand why most people would give it a 5 but I'm going to have to give it a 3. This was the most difficult book I've ever had to review.
Rating: ***

Sherri Soriano: 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. I could not put down this book. I love books about different cultures.
Rating: *****

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