Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
A little over a year ago, I reviewed Thrity Umrigar's The Space between Us for an Imprint Friday feature. This month, Harper Perennial is publishing the paperback edition of The World We Found, a novel that shows a different side of modern India.
Here's the summary:
As university students in late 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable. Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But over the past thirty years, the quartet has drifted apart, the day-to-day demands of work and family tempering the revolutionary fervor they once shared.First and foremost, The World We Found is about the friendship of four women, cemented in the heady, carefree days of their youth. As the years went by, they took separate paths, but in their hearts they were still a band of four against the world. Unlike lighter books about women's relationships, this novel takes a more realistic look, highlighting what the friends cannot share as much as what they can.
Then comes devastating news: Armaiti, who moved to America, is gravely ill and wants to see the old friends she left behind. For Laleh, reunion is a bittersweet reminder of unfulfilled dreams and unspoken guilt. For Kavita, it is an admission of forbidden passion. For Nishta, it is the promise of freedom from a bitter, fundamentalist husband. And for Armaiti, it is an act of acceptance, of letting go on her own terms.
The World We Found is a dazzling masterwork from the remarkable Thrity Umrigar, offering an unforgettable portrait of modern India while it explores the enduring bonds of friendship and the power of love to change lives.
A second principal theme is that of Nishta's conversion from Hindu to Muslim and the profound effect it has had on her circumstances and prospects. After political unrest in India, her husband insists they move to a Muslim neighborhood and begins to take his religion seriously, insisting Nishta change both her name and her spiritual practices.
Before you jump to conclusions, let me quickly say that The World We Found is not the same old rehash of women's repression in the East. Umrigar moves beyond women's issues, focusing on other aspects of modern India--politics and religion, in particular. In addition, we are given the chance to see things from the minds of Nishta's and Laleh's husbands. When we learn what has motivated the men (especially Nishta's husband), we gain a new understanding, even if we can't always condone their actions.
Finally, I'd like to say something about Umrigar's treatment of India and Indian culture. One of the shining aspects of this novel is that India is, simply, just what it is--the informing background to the women's lives. Umrigar is unapologetic, leaving it to the reader to balance the negatives and the positives.
The World We Found would make an excellent book club choice. There is a vast range of topics for discussion. Although Harper Perennial provides 18 thoughtful questions, do not miss the detailed and incredible discussion posts written by Swapna of S. Krishna's Books. She developed 30 insightful questions spread out over six posts. In fact, I relied on her prompts to help me solidify my thoughts about the novel when I wrote today's post.
The World We Found was an Indie Next Pick for January 2012. For more on Thrity Umrigar, visit her website, where you'll find links to interviews, radio shows, all her books, and her tour schedule.
Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.