27 May 2011

Imprint Friday: The Space between Us by Thrity Umrigar

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.

Many of you may be very familiar with author Thrity Umrigar. Her novel The Space between Us won critical acclaim both on blogs and in the international press. If you haven't yet read this beautiful story of two women and the seemingly insurmountable class differences that separate them, you might want to pick up the new deluxe edition that Harper Perennial recently released as part of their modern classics series.

Here is the summary:

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.
Westerners have been fascinated with India for centuries: exotic spices, bright colors, ancient religions, and beautiful architecture. Today, we think of India as a modern country that has embraced technology and has a global vision. But what may be little know outside the subcontinent is that the caste system, although outlawed, still has a strong hold on some twenty-first-century Indians. Umrigar takes that as a principal theme in her beautifully written novel.

Can you tell the difference in the women's lives right from our introduction to them?

Chapter 1:
Although it is dawn, inside Bhima's heart it is dusk.

Rolling onto her left side on the thin cotton mattress on the floor, she sits up abruptly, as she does every morning. . . . For an idle moment she sits at the edge of the mattress with her calloused feet flat on the mud floor, her knees bent and her head resting on her folded arms. In that time she is almost at rest, her mind thankfully blank and empty of the trials that await her today and the next day and the next.
Chapter 2:
Sera Dubash glances at the basket of onions hanging near the window and then at the large kitchen clock. Late again. Bhima is late again. She really needs to talk to Bhima about this daily tardiness. After all, she, Sera, is responsible for packing [her children's] lunches on time each morning, and she needs Bhima here to help her. Yesterday, both children left for work ten minutes later than they should have because their lunches were not ready.
The socioeconomic divide separating these women is instantaneously recognizable, and we wonder if it is possible for them to have a personal relationship. The novel looks at prejudices, friendship, and families through the interwoven stories of Bhima and Sera. As a backdrop, sits India, complete with the sights and smells and sounds of Bombay.

Umrigar shows us her personal India: both more beautiful and more disturbing than we have likely imagined. If you are interested in women's stories, in social inequality, and in learning more about modern Indian life, add The Space between Us to your reading list.

Here are some other thoughts; click the links for the complete reviews:
  • Swapna from S. Krisha's Books: "Umrigar’s fully realized characters, beautiful writing, and vivid descriptions make India come to life for the reader. Though this book is gutwrenching and heartbreaking, it also leaves the reader with some semblance of hope."
  • Shona from Shona's Book Shelves: "Thrity Umrigar's The Space Between Us was one book at the end of which I was left speechless, not because of any ground shattering discovery or any revealed mystery but for the honesty with which it was told."
  • Kirkus Reviews: "A subtle, elegant analysis of class and power. Umrigar transcends the specifics of two Bombay women and creates a novel that quietly roars against tyranny."
For more about Thrity Umrigar and her work, visit her website. Book clubs will find the detailed Reading Guide to be useful.

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.

The Space between Us at an Indie
The Space between Us at Powell's
The Space between Us at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial (deluxe edition), 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062067890


Karen Harrington 5/27/11, 7:57 AM  

I loved this book so much!

Gabriela Lessa 5/27/11, 9:16 AM  

One of my favorite books! Umrigar's storytelling is flawless. A must read.

TheBookGirl 5/27/11, 10:28 AM  

Add me to the list of fans of this book -- I read it several years ago, and loved it. I have If Today be Sweet on my TBR pile, to get to soon.

Literary Feline 5/27/11, 10:48 AM  

I am another one who loved this book. The author is among my favorites.

Sandy Nawrot 5/27/11, 11:15 AM  

Erica Barmash is just COOL. That is the only way to describe her. I love following her on Twitter (even though I lurk in the shadows). And just about every person that reviewed this book were having their minds blown. In fact I think I made a note to myself to make this author a "project".

Zibilee 5/28/11, 1:03 PM  

This is the only book by Thrity Umrigar that I Haven't read, yet I do have it on my shelf. I hope to get the chance to read it soon, as she is one of my favorite Indian authors. Thanks for the great spotlight!

Booksnyc 5/29/11, 11:35 AM  

I love the newly released cover! This story is truly "beautiful" as you say at the beginning of the post. I keep meaning to read more from this author but wonder if it will measure up to The Space Between Us.

BookGeek 5/31/11, 12:37 PM  

I loved this book - reviewed it a few months back! I loved the parallels between the characters and the way they wove in and out in the narrative. Beautiful, lyrical prose as well.

joanna 6/1/11, 7:34 AM  

I loved this book when I read it last year - more people should know of it, a great one to highlight!

The Bumbles 6/3/11, 10:39 PM  

Worth every bit of praise it receives. I have not been able to get those women out of my soul since reading them several years ago. Someone hosted a read-along last year I think it was and I loved reading everyone's posts and thoughts - gave me a way to re-live it all over again through the raw enthusiasm of the bloggers.

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