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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7 Responses to “Read Along With Me #2: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar Chapters 6-8”

  1. Claudia {SparrowHawk} October 10, 2014 at 1:43 AM #

    I like your relational comparison between The Help’s Aibileen & Mae’s related to Sera & Bhima’s, it made me smile. 🙂 Only, I feel Aibileen & Mae’s is more intentional since they are both from similar backgrounds. Interestingly enough, I have not felt the emotional connection or the friendship synergy between Bhima and Sera. It’s probably because we read more of their back story in this section. Hopefully we’ll see some more interaction between the two in this next part.

    With regards to your response to my question, your assessment makes perfect sense Sam. I really feel you nailed it; especially, with this section of your response:

    “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.”

    Ugh! Such a depressing outcome for Sera! There has got to be an immense amount of pain and guilt that comes with that kind of rude awakening, especially since Sera’s marriage was not arranged, but pursued. Even more sad, is the fact that this reality dawned on her so early in the marriage.

    On the musing topic, I had not thought about the fact that Maya may presumably be taking Bhima’s sympathy and kindness for granted! The points that you highlighted make it even more prevalent. I suspect the reason it did not cross my mind is, again, for the simple fact that in my culture, it is almost expected. A grandmother in a Hispanic home/family is viewed as the “glue” that holds the stability of the entire family as a whole. Sad, but true. I find it so interesting that I neglected to see this approach in Maya’s part, but you didn’t.

    Espero que tengas un buen fin de semana Sam. Hasta la próxima!


    • Sam October 10, 2014 at 8:00 AM #

      After reading the next section of the book (and I promise not to say anything about it!) I’m wondering if this book has a different purpose than I was originally thinking. There doesn’t seem to be any focus so far on the relationship between Sera and Bhima but comparisons and similarities between the two woman which you would think to drive them closer but are unknown to each other and fill the ‘space between them’ (you see what I did there?).

      I do feel sad for Sera, but I think I feel worse for Bhima! We don’t know too much about Gopal yet, but what we do know is tragic for her. She also placed so much faith in a man who persued her only to be dropped like an old shoe. I think this is another similarity between her and Sera and I wonder what Bhima would have thought of the Muslim couple.

      The best thing about book clubs is the approach each reader brings to the book. I’m glad I could bring up something you hadn’t considered before. I wonder if the grandmother/granddaughter relationship between Bhima and Maya is strained or different because Bhima has been Maya’s primary care giver for a majority of her life, filling more of a mother role than a grandmother role. It seems Bhima’s family has fallen apart, so maybe she feels like she’s failed to be the glue to what’s left of her family.

      Disfrutate el fin de semana. Mandare las siguientes preguntas en la semana que viene. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Claudia {SparrowHawk} October 11, 2014 at 1:36 AM #

        Ha ha ha! I did see what you did there; touché! It was sort of similar to what I pulled with The Maze Runner remember? “It wasn’t as aMAZEing.” But still, your witty interjection was better than mine:)

        I have to agree with you in that our assumptions of the story may not be what we have been anticipating, but the story alone is still good; I’m really enjoying it.

        Okay, in all seriousness, I LOVED Gopal and Bhima’s opening; how he wooed her with his spontaneous singing, his persistence and his adventurous nature *swooning* As a matter of fact, I am almost hesitant to uncover what really took place between the two, because theirs is a charming love story.

        Bhima is such a humble and subservient person, that I would imagine her to slightly bow her head and simply smile at the Muslim couple. I can see her appreciating the hard fact that at least one woman in all of India is truly being lavished and appreciated for who they are.


      • Sam October 11, 2014 at 10:18 AM #

        I also adored Gopal’s courting of Bhima. I’m scared to find out what changed because it was something straight out of a romantic comedy and I didn’t want it to end!

        I love your idea of how Bhima would have reacted to the Muslim couple. That seems spot on with her personality.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ashlee October 14, 2014 at 1:17 PM #

    I’m late to the game on this one, ladies! I was out of town last week but hope to have my post up tonight.

    Sam, I like the points you make about the line between Sera and Bhima, and also Bhima and Maya. It’s easy to assume that Sera should have drawn the line a long time ago with her mother-in-law mostly due to her extreme dislike for the woman, but what complicates things for each set of women (Sera and Bhima / Bhima and Maya) is their great love for one another. Whether it is spoken or not, it is there. Sometimes love keeps lines from materializing even when they should.

    Bhima breaks my heart because even after a lifetime of disappointment and hardship, she still feels more and more defeated each day with Maya’s situation. There is no end to her pain. I think she saw Maya as her last hope for producing greatness, a chance to redeem her hard and demanding life, but that has been spoiled as well. Life without hope is rather depressing to think about. I want more for all of these women, and I think that’s a great testament to the writer’s ability to create true and genuine characters.


    • Sam October 14, 2014 at 2:21 PM #

      Ashlee, what a great point about Bhima’s view of Maya. I’ve heard of parents living through their children, but I’d never thought about living through one’s grandchildren. I think you’re right, Maya’s graduation from school would have been an accomplishment for Bhima as well. She probably feels the sting of defeat and maybe even more than Maya; she can’t do anything to change it. Helplessness is very defeating.



  1. Read Along with Me: The Space Between Us #2 | Life { Faith } Tea - October 14, 2014

    […] This book proposes some powerful topics! I’m so glad we’re dissecting it section by section. For more musing, check out what Claudia and Sam had to say. […]


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