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Read Along With Me #2: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar Chapters 6-8

9 Oct

Read Along 2

Here’s the second installment of our second Read-Along With Me. If you want to join Ashlee, Claudia and me as we read Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us, send me an email. We’d love to have you! You can look at all of our posts on the hub page.

Question from Ashlee: I was surprised when Viraf showed as much concern for Maya’s situation as Sera, going as far as to say “we need to do something about this.” I can understand how Sera and Bhima developed a strong bond over the years, but considering the different economic classes, do you think Maya and Dinaz were close, as well? What are your thoughts on Viraf’s comment?

It didn’t occur to me until Ashlee pointed it out that Viraf had shown such a level of concern. I think it shows his commitment to Dinaz and Sera that he’s taken such an interest in a woman that’s been part of their family for so long. He seems to care for Bhima because he drives her to the market and is very polite to her, but I’m not sure yet how genuine it is. He’s only known her for a short time in comparison to Dinaz and Bhima. I imagine that Dinaz and Bhima were very close. It makes me think of The Help by Kathryn Stockett and how close Aibileen was to Mae Mobley. I imagine Dinaz and Bhima with a similar relationship. Between Maya and Dinaz, I’m not sure there would be much of a relationship. I think we’ll have to find out more about Bhima’s past to see how old she was when she became Maya’s primary care giver. If she was very young, it’s likely she brought Maya to work with her. But if she was older, I think Bhima’s professional attitude would prohibit her from dragging her granddaughter to work.

 

Question from Claudia: As Sera observed the Muslim couple with their fingers intertwined, she sensed envy towards their affections. What do you think the author, Thrity wanted to convey through this comparison? The comparison being Sera and the Muslim woman.

Here’s the quote Claudia is referencing, which comes from page 88 in the middle of Chapter 7:

She would’ve thought uncharitable thoughts about the husband who allowed his wife to walk around in this prison cloth, who ignored statistics that showed a higher prevalence of TB among women who kept their faces covered all day long. But now, she noticed that the veiled woman’s index finger protruded out of the black robe and that it was linked to her husband’s finger. Thus they walked, their fingers touching in a poignant connection that proved the fallacy of the veil and suggested something deeper and more eternal than human conventions.

I noticed this quote while reading as well and it made me stop and think. I was fortunate in college to have a very close friend who grew up in Saudi Arabia. We were close enough that I could ask him questions about his culture and his religion and I found it really insightful. He would tell me that even in a country of arranged marriages, there is love between a man and a wife. Reading into it, I’ve heard of marriages where the couples meets on-line or through family members and are able to get to know each other without meeting face to face and are eventually married. With my idea that this book is set in the mid 1970s, that doesn’t seem to be the case here. I think this is a case where the couple was lucky enough to be placed with someone they were truly compatible with and they have a very loving marriage.

I think Sera’s comment is about how her marriage was formed. She was courted and fell in love with a man she thought she knew. On page 80, also Chapter 7, she says,

The difference between wooing her, making sure that she chose him over every other man, and knowing that he had won her and there was no reason to impress her anymore. She turned away from him,, afraid that he would see the disappointment in her eyes. Because she wasn’t disappointed by him as much as she was disappointed in him, by his banality, y how, how common he had turned out to be.

I marked by this passage, Every woman’s fear. No one wants to find out that they were a prize and that all of the romance and wooing was just to win and now that they’ve been won, they’re not special. We want to always be special. I think Sera was jealous that she’d been won and discarded whereas she saw this woman had been a gift to her husband that he treasured every day.

 

And now for the musing topic! It was proposed by Claudia this week and I really like it. The topic is ‘At what degree does one draw the line?’ The example she uses is Banu’s treatment of Sera and how much she put up with for her new husband. I think we can extend this even further to talk about how Bhima has yet to draw the line with Maya. She’s furious with the girl and thinks her life is ruined but she continues to let the girl stay in her house, eat her food, and hide from the neighbors. I wonder if there’s a line where Bhima will say she has to get out and make the father take responsibility for her. Would there be a line Maya could cross where Bhima would kick her out on the street? I don’t think so, but her anger has been mounting since the book began.

Another line yet to be drawn is between Bhima and Sera. Sera seems increasingly frustrated with Bhima’s tardiness and low energy in the mornings. She keeps thinking of saying something, but doesn’t. Bhima keeps being resentful to Sera for being treated like any other servant instead of a long-standing and faithful one, but she doesn’t say anything. She almost does when Sera refuses to buy a dishwasher to lighten Bhima’s workload, but doesn’t. Is there a line that either of these two will cross and tell the other how she really feels? I hope so. I see this as the central conflict of the book.

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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