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The Space Between Us Paperback – Jul 18 2011

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Gifts For Dad

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Canada (July 18 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1443406767
  • ISBN-13: 978-1443406765
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.4 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #241,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Umrigar's schematic novel (after Bombay Time) illustrates the intimacy, and the irreconcilable class divide, between two women in contemporary Bombay. Bhima, a 65-year-old slum dweller, has worked for Sera Dubash, a younger upper-middle-class Parsi woman, for years: cooking, cleaning and tending Sera after the beatings she endures from her abusive husband, Feroz. Sera, in turn, nurses Bhima back to health from typhoid fever and sends her granddaughter Maya to college. Sera recognizes their affinity: "They were alike in many ways, Bhima and she. Despite the different trajectories of their lives—circumstances... dictated by the accidents of their births—they had both known the pain of watching the bloom fade from their marriages." But Sera's affection for her servant wars with ingrained prejudice against lower castes. The younger generation—Maya; Sera's daughter, Dinaz, and son-in-law, Viraf—are also caged by the same strictures despite efforts to throw them off. In a final plot twist, class allegiance combined with gender inequality challenges personal connection, and Bhima may pay a bitter price for her loyalty to her employers. At times, Umrigar's writing achieves clarity, but a narrative that unfolds in retrospect saps the book's momentum. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Sera Dubash is an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife in modern-day Bombay. Bhima is her domestic servant. Though they inhabit dramatically different worlds, the two women have much in common. Both married men they alternately love and loathe: Sera's moody husband frequently beats her, and Bhima's betrothed falls into an alcohol-drenched depression after losing his job. Sera's civil treatment of her servant--she overlooks Bhima's frequent tardiness and treats her like an equal--dismays her neighbors and friends. She also offers to fund the college education of Bhima's granddaughter, Maya, whom Bhima adopted when the girl's mother died of AIDS. The bond between the two women deepens when Sera (whose own daughter is happily wed and expecting her first child) arranges an abortion for unmarried Maya. Veteran journalist and Case Western Reserve professor Umrigar (Bombay Time, 2001) renders a collection of compelling and complex characters, from kind, conflicted Sera to fiercely devoted Bhima (the latter is based on the novelist's own childhood housekeeper). Sadness suffuses this eloquent tale, whose heart-stopping plot twists reveal the ferocity of fate. As Bhima sits at her dying daughter's side, a fellow hospital visitor speaks the simple, brutal truth: "Here, we have all hit the jackpot for grief." Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER on Feb. 21 2006
Format: Hardcover
Thrity Umrigar's "SPACE BETWEEN US" is a novel of moral integrity, social/class division, emotional isolation, profound passion and intimacy.
Bhima is a 65-year-old widow raising her nineteen year old grand-daughter Maya. Living in a hut in the slums where filth and hunger are a daily occurence, Bhima's dream is to create a better life for Maya.
Bhima has cooked, cleaned and cared for the Dubash family for many years. Sera Dubash, the lady of the house, is an upper-class Parsi woman who is now widowed. Sera endured years of physical abuse from her husband Feroz while trying to shelter and protect her only child, Dinaz, from witnessing the cruel behaviour of her father.
Sera and Bhima form an intimate bond and an understanding despite their extreme difference in social class after Sera nurse's Bhima back to health from a bout with typhoid fever. Bhima repays Sera through her continued loyalty and Sera in turn, pays for Bhima's grand-daughter Maya, to attend college.
Sera's only child Dinaz and her husband Viraf move home with Sera so she won't be alone. Sera spends much of her time doting on Dinaz who is pregnant with her first child and talking with Bhima while she cleans.
Maya becomes pregnant by a man she refuses to name, crushing Bhima's hope of a better life for her. Bhima's immense disappointment and anger toward Maya causes her to physically lash out at Maya. With no money or education in such matters, Bhima turns to her friend Sera who arranges and pays for an abortion which deepens the intimacy and bond these two older women share.
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This novel is a MUST. Although the setting is in India so far removed from my reality I could "see" and "feel" the culture of the country where the story was taking place. The characters are unbelievably well-developed. The story comes together beautifully, slowly but surely as we enjoy the musings of the main character whom we get to understand and love. We feel for her and there is no "space between us" as we become her and feel her pain, her longings, her worries, her deceptions. A beautiful novel. I look forward to reading more of Thrity Umrigar's books.
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By Donna Gamble on June 26 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I could hardly put this book down . I have read a number of books where the story takes place in India. This had great characters that were well developed. The men were all scabs but the women were strong because of the hardship.
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This book is very well written. I'm a fan of novels set in India and The Space Between Us is among the best of them. I highly recommend this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 424 reviews
210 of 223 people found the following review helpful
"It was all a waste, just an endless cycle of birth and death; of love and loss" Feb. 1 2006
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Using turbulent India, with all its social, environmental and economic problems as a background, author Thrity Umrigar tells a very humanistic tale of love, loss and ultimately betrayal. Two very different women who, in their struggle to cope with their heartache and sorrow, discover an inevitable commonality, a spiritual unity, even though they are divided by the seemingly insurmountable gulf of money, opportunity and class.

Sera Dubash is a wealthy educated Parsi, who lives a privileged upper-class life in Bombay. Her married life fraught with violence and brutality, she ached for a marriage that was different from all the "dead sea of marriages she saw all around her," a marriage begun with such high hopes that fizzled out. Now she is widowed and lives happily with her daughter and son-in-law, looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild.

Bhima is poor and illiterate, forced to eek out an existence on the edges of Bombay, enduring the stench and fifth, the open drains with their dank pungent smell, the dark rows of slanting hutments, the gaunt and open-mouthed men. Bhima has worked for years as Sera's domestic housekeeper, and has built up a trustworthy relationship with her employer's family; Sera's the only person who treats her like a human being, has been steadfast and true to her, and never despised her for being ignorant, or illiterate or weak. Sera even promises to financially help Bhima's granddaughter Maya go to college. But no one - least of all Bhima - expects the seventeen-year-old Maya to get pregnant.

Bhima is convinced that only education is the key to success, an escape from the back breaking and menial labor that has marred the lives of her mother and her mother before her, and aware that a child will end Maya's chance at a better life, she tells her granddaughter she must have an abortion. Bhima seeks Sera's help; both convinced that terminating the baby is only way to ensure Maya will be able to break the hold poverty has had on the family.

Bhima, however, has had her own demons to contend with. Her daughter and son-in-law are dead, stricken by an incurable disease; the elderly woman talking herself into believing that this unborn child is but a "demon growing in her granddaughter's belly." Her emotions run the gamut of anger and fear, fear for this stupid innocent pregnant girl; yet she holds onto the unacknowledged hope that the child's father will perhaps step forward to assume his responsibility, to marry and build a life with the woman who would bear his first child.

Through their shared experiences, Sera and Bhima are inevitably bound; and it's almost as though Bhima has an eyeglass to Sera's soul, feeling exposed under the x-ray vision of Bhima's eyes. But they are divided by a hypocritical society that perpetuates discriminative caste differences, and looks down upon the poor: Sera is kindhearted and concerned for Maya's welfare, but during lunch, Sera always sits at the table, whilst making Bhima squat on her haunches on the floor nearby, forced to use separate utensils. Sera is secretly disgusted at the foul odor of the tobacco that Bhima chews all day long, the woman almost embodying everything that is repulsive about the slums just a short distance away.

Umrigar writes of a jolting, momentary world that is full of illusion and false hope, where Sera and Bhima - both disappointed by the men they loved - are obliged to make the best of any given situation they land themselves in. Sera often resorts to tears and frustration, determined to shut out the realities of the evil that lurks within her family, whilst Bhima is left to pick up the pieces, to soldier on, cloaked in anger and misery. Each wound penetrating deeper and deeper, as she feels the old familiar yearning of what she has left behind.

The author excels in vividly bringing to life the sights, sounds and smells of Bombay, the street urchins, the stray dogs, the impoverished nut vendors, and the hollow-eyed slum dwellers, a city mad with greed and hunger, power and impotence wealth and poverty, where the weak and vulnerable are elbowed out of the way, and where the poor treat the middle class like royalty, when they should actually hate their guts.

Gorgeously imagined, this intimate and sensuous tale is constantly fraught with tension, the human condition this author's specialty. It is impossible to imagine more frightening circumstances than those conditions that Bhima must endure at her age, her heart broken by the people around her with their deceit, their treachery, their fallibility, and their sheer humanity. Through the course of the story, Bhima learns that none of the old rules, the old taboos apply, hers is a fragile existence, a world constructed of sand - shaky ambiguous, and ultimately impermanent. Mike Leonard February 06.
76 of 85 people found the following review helpful
At Times, The Writing Is Utterly Beautiful, BUT.... July 14 2007
By Marilyn Raisen - Published on
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I was immediately drawn into this book which, at first, seemed so promising. Found Bhima's plight to be very compelling. Sera's situation was awful also, but I was still interested in their stories. I think that, for me, the story fell apart when the truth of Maya's predicament unfolded. I don't really know why, but I simply stopped caring.... This was Bhima's & Sera's story and should have remained as such. Again, the writing -- especially describing Bhima's entire story [the hut, the hospital scenes, etc.] -- was, for me, very real & beautifully rendered. However, the ending was unconvincing, in my humble opinion. Extremely disappointed given such a beguiling & goregous beginning!! [I probably would have rated this book a 2 Star read if not for the writing, as well as for Bhima's story [initially a 4 star which unravelled into soap opera].
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Captivating and Moving July 13 2007
By David Dunaway - Published on
Yet another wonderful and moving novel by Thrity Umrigar. The story vividly unfolds on each page, and I found myself unable to put the book down. It tells the story of Bhima and Sera, two people who's lives are very much different, but in many ways the same. Yes, there is much sadness in this book. However, that sadness is there for a reason and is meant to be thought-provoking. It forces you evaluate your life and your relationships. It also helps you to better understand not only the person you are, but the kind of person you want to be. The character of Bhima moved me the most, and will live on in my heart.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
"Or perhaps it is that time doesn't heal all wounds at all, perhaps that is the biggest lie of them all." Feb. 11 2006
By Kathy K - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"Or perhaps it is that time doesn't heal all wounds at all, perhaps that is the biggest lie of them all, and instead what happens is that each wound penetrates the body deeper and deeper until one day you find that the sheer geography of your bones-has collapsed under the weight of your grief." Sprinkling it with heartbreakingly beautiful passages like this one, with The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar earns her rightful place amongst India's great storytellers. Within these pages you won't find easy lives or happy endings. What you will find is the authenticity of life, replete with all its trials, tribulations, heartache and betrayal. Friendship between the most unlikely of women, divided by class and caste, frames this novel, proving that neither one's familial nor financial inheritance can shelter her from the sorrow of this world. Yet for all its antiquated underpinnings, The Space Between Us is chockfull of modern-day issues like abortion, adultery and domestic violence, making it intensely current and relatable. Readers from all walks of life will quickly forget the "space between" Bhima and Sera and soon see them as regular women who are "living for more than just themselves." With its characters still haunting me, The Space Between Us earns my high recommendation.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Just short of sublime May 27 2007
By Ursiform - Published on
Verified Purchase
The earliest chapters were pleasant, but not totally enthralling, so it took me a while to finish this book. But I was eventually pulled in and drawn along by prose and storytelling of the highest quality. The interplay between the upper class Sera and her poor servant Bhima is well told, as are the many surrounding subplots. Both the similar and the different challenges faced by very different social classes are illuminated in the telling of parallel lives. Central to the story is how Sera and Bhima form an intimate relationship without every overcoming the separation of social class that prevents a friendship between them.

The novel is driven by the unfortunate pregnancy of Bhima's granddaughter, Maya, which thwarts the college education both Bhima and Sera want for her. After many a subplot and flashback develops the history of the protagonists, there is a sudden revelation that upsets everything. Up to this point there is little to criticize.

The short denouement following the revelation is more problematical. While fitting with the class divisions illuminated throughout the novel, it is harder to reconcile with the personalities of the protagonists created by the author. I was left at the end feeling that the last few pages didn't quite ring true.

I don't want to spoil the story by discussing more detail because I do think this book is well worth reading. Take the opportunity and form your own opinion about the ending.

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