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Read Along With Me #2: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar Chapters 1-5

25 Sep

Read Along 2

It’s time to start another Read-Along! Wooo, so excited. I’m joined by two veterans, Claudia and Ashlee. You can look at all of our posts on the hub page. And if you think you want to join up, send me an email! We’d love to have you.

Set-up of the Read-Along has changed just slightly. We all submit one or two questions and then one person suggests a major topic we can all ‘muse’ over. Hopefully this well give us a more consistent discussion across blogs. Let’s get to this!

Question from ClaudiaHave you had friends or relatives desperately fight against your decision(s) and/or choice(s)? (ie. you’re too young, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t know any better)
As a matter of fact, yes. I got engaged when I was 21. I know some of you are thinking, “So?” and others are thinking, “Why so young? You have your whole life ahead of you!” At least I assume you are because those are the two reactions we got. Some people didn’t think it was a problem and some thought we were too young and that by telling us, we would ‘come to our sense’ and call off the engagement. Needless to say, I married that man 22 months later and I’m so glad I did. But I had some relatives (an in-laws) who were against it for a long time.

It’s a hard position to be in. The people who you are used to leaning on and being supported by are pushing back at a major decision you’re making. You were so happy and excited about it, and now there’s no one smiling with you. I sympathize with Maya in this respect and can feel her pain. Bhima is ashamed (which I hope my relatives didn’t feel) and thinks she knows what’s right for Maya, though Maya may not agree.


Question from AshleeBhima and Sera both make a comment along the lines of, “Oh, but she is good to me so I shouldn’t be so hard on her.” I find it interesting that two women from two very different social classes can look at each other in the same way. I assume this is without the other knowing. A common thread between them that is perhaps never mentioned throughout their relationship. I’m sensing this might be the author’s goal with this novel, but how do you see it playing out?
I think this plays right into the title. There is a gap between the two women and even though they think and feel the same things, there’s something that has to be overcome. That space isn’t something that they can overcome, perhaps, because it might be more deeply seeded than they are able to break. India existed in a caste system for a long time and the characters mention how even though it is gone, there’s still an influence and a shadow of the system.

I think Umrigar is making a larger point as well; we never know how someone else is looking at us. We’re all human, yet we assume we’re a ‘different’ human than someone else because we look different or have a different background when we have no basis for making this assumption. I’ve been very blessed to have a diverse group of people around me growing up in Metro Detroit and having parents who raised me to believe everyone is the same. I know my mom grew up in a household where things were not quite so free and I can understand from that how Bhima and Sera are influenced by the place where they grew up. They’d have to grow a lot to overcome it.


Here’s the new part. I proposed a topic for us all to think about and write about to draw a common thread across our discussions. The one I proposed this time was the effect of those not living in the story. I remember when I was high school we read the Tennessee Williams play The Glass Menagerie. The essay we had to write was about how the father (who is deceased) influenced the play. I thought of this a lot while reading these chapters. Both of our main characters have people in their lives who we either assume or know are dead that have influenced them greatly.

Bhima is influenced by her daughter, who I think has passed. Shes taking care of her granddaughter and soon, her great-granddaughter. She seems to have had a bad falling out with her daughter that she has imposed on Maya quite unfairly. There is a line on page 6 that makes me think Bhima might have had a pregnancy when she was very young.

… Maya would live, would continue going to college and choose a life different from what Bhima had always known.

I admit it could mean getting out of the slum, but I took this to mean Bhima blames her daughter for keeping her in the slum because she was pregnant at a young age. I think Bhima also doesn’t want Maya to blame her child for keeping her in the slum.

Sera is influenced by her late husband., Feroz. She did not have a happy marriage and sees it as her duty to make sure her daughter and son-in-law have a good relationship. She seems to be pandering to Viraf to be sure he is happy and treats her daughter well. Another way Feroz influences her is through his mother. Sera feels obligated to visit the woman daily, even though she was cruel to her in earlier years, because she cared for Feroz in childhood. It seems like more of a duty than an act of love and it’s entirely driven by Feroz.


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along. Please drop me a line if you are interested in joining us; we have so much fun doing these!

Until next time, write on.

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