Two Books by Thrity Umrigar
A couple who loses their son moves to India to "start over" is the framework for The Weight of Heaven, which Donna read. Terrie read The Space Between Us, the story of a wealthy Parsi woman, her valued servant of 20 years, and their changing relationship.
The Weight of Heaven, Thrity Umrigar
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2009, 365 pages
I have read several books by this author and they have all been wonderful. This is a heart-wrenching story of an American couple who loses their 7-year-old son suddenly. The husband’s job moves them to India and gives them a chance to start over and recover.
Ellie is willing and tries but her husband, Frank, meets a young Indian boy whom he takes under his wing. He tutors the boy and starts focusing on him to the exclusion of almost everything else with horrific results. A tragedy results because of Frank’s obsession and it is shocking. It left me wondering how a person recovers from these things.
There is a shattering section on the loss of their son and how it affected them both that left me hurting for them and all parents who lose a child. It was the most detailed and realistic portrayal I can imagine of that kind of devastating loss and as a person without children this came closer than anything I’ve ever read to making me feel what they felt. Umrigar's descriptions are excellent.
This book might appeal to you if you enjoy books set in other countries, especially India, like I do. Although there is heartbreaking tragedy in this book, on more than one occasion, it is so well written and so evocative that it really resonated with me even though I have never experienced any of the things written about in the book. Isn't that what a good book should do?
The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2006, 321 pages
Set in India, this story of class distinction and relationship between employer (Sera) and servant (Bhima) is so well written. It's full of the love Bhima has for the granddaughter she is raising and the affection and loyalty she feels for Sera, her employer of 20 years. Umrigar also very clearly describes the conditions of abject poverty this illiterate woman lives in and how she wants more for her granddaughter.
Bhima is such a complex character and we learn bits of her history and how she comes to raise her granddaughter as we also learn of her history with Sera and her family. On this backdrop, her granddaughter is raped and all relationships are changed forever. This is a fabulous character study story with great Indian cultural references and believability. It's a story of class and the power of money.
"She always imagined that evil played out on a large canvas- wars, concentration camps, gas chambers, the partitioning of nations. Now she realized that evil had a domestic side, and its very banality protected it from exposure."
I loved this book, even with all it's unhappiness, and unfairness in the treatment of servants, BUT, I felt like the ending was a bit of a cop out. It was too Hollywood, tidy and neat. That being said, it certainly wasn't enough of a deterrent to keep me from recommending this otherwise excellent story.