The Space Between Us
By Thrity Umrigar
(William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780060791551, 336pp.)
Publication Date: January 2006
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Each morning, Bhima, a domestic servant in contemporary Bombay, leaves her own small shanty in the slums to tend to another woman's house. In Sera Dubash's home, Bhima scrubs the floors of a house in which she remains an outsider. She cleans furniture she is not permitted to sit on. She washes glasses from which she is not allowed to drink. Yet despite being separated from each other by blood and class, she and Sera find themselves bound by gender and shared life experiences.
Sera is an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose opulent surroundings hide the shame and disappointment of her abusive marriage. A widow, she devotes herself to her family, spending much of her time caring for her pregnant daughter, Dinaz, a kindhearted, educated professional, and her charming and successful son-in-law, Viraf.
Bhima, a stoic illiterate hardened by a life of despair and loss, has worked in the Dubash household for more than twenty years. Cursed by fate, she sacrifices all for her beautiful, headstrong granddaughter, Maya, a university student whose education -- paid for by Sera -- will enable them to escape the slums. But when an unwed Maya becomes pregnant by a man whose identity she refuses to reveal, Bhima's dreams of a better life for her granddaughter, as well as for herself, may be shattered forever.
Poignant and compelling, evocative and unforgettable, The Space Between Us is an intimate portrait of a distant yet familiar world. Set in modern-day India and witnessed through two compelling and achingly real women, the novel shows how the lives of the rich and the poor are intrinsically connected yet vastly removed from each other, and vividly captures how the bonds of womanhood are pitted against the divisions of class and culture.
- The novel deals with a relationship that, despite all the good will in the world, is ultimately based on the exploitation of one human being by another. Has this novel caused you to look at any situations in your own life where you may be benefiting from the labor or poverty of another?
“Intimately and compassionately told.... Sensuous.... Umrigar’s memorable characters will live on for a long time.”
-Frances Itani, Washington Post Book World
“Umrigar is a highly skilled storyteller...the novel’s plot and depth of characterisation provide irresistible momentum.”
-Time Out New York
“Sadness suffuses this eloquent tale, whose heart-stopping plot twists reveal the ferocity of fate.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“[The Space Between Us] is provocative and disturbing.”
“[A] powerful novel.”
-National Post (Canada)
“Heartbreaking.... A subtle, elegant analysis of class and power... that quietly roars against tyranny.”
“Umrigar is a perceptive and often piercing writer.”
-New York Times Book Review
“With humanity and suspense, novelist Thrity Umrigar tackles love, loyalty, injustice - and survival.”
“[Umrigar] displays an impressive talent for conceiving multidimensional, sympathetic characters with life-like emotional quandaries and psychological stumbling blocks.”
-Washington Post Book World, Praise for Bombay Time