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Read Along With Me #2: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar Chapters 17-21

20 Nov

Read Along 2

The fifth installment of my second Read Along With Me book club. The book this time is ‘The Space Between Us’ by Thrity Umrigar which is absolutely amazing so far. We stopped at a total cliffhanger! You can look at all of our posts on the hub page. We’re almost done with this book but I hope to have a new one start in January so keep on eye here if you think this is something you’d like to do in the future. Here we go!

Question from AshleeI had a suspicion that things would go sour for Viraf and Dinaz simply because no one has a happy marriage in this novel. Do you think this is Umrigar’s personal beef with the idea of marriage? How she views Indian marriages? Or just the stuff that good heartbreaking novels are made of?

I just spent twenty minutes searching for any comment in interviews or factoid about Umrigar and a marriage or relationship or a deliberate addition to failed marriages in this book. All I found is that infidelity and broken marriages are a part of a lot of her books but nothing about her personal life. When I heard her speak last year, it wasn’t brought up. I remember her mentioning that her parents had a strained relationship in her memoir, First Darling of the Morning which I read before meeting her. I’m not sure if there’s something in her past that’s left a bad taste of marriages in her mouth, but reading the book it would seem there might be. I’m not sure if it’s a comment in Indian courtship customs or a lifestyle that’s destructive to loving relationships or a comment on previously arranged marriages or none of the above. I think it could easily not be about marriage in the Indian culture at all and more about how Umrigar feels. Though I do think that Ashlee has a point about broken marriages being the spark to a good novel. Bhima and Sera both share in a broken marriage and Dinaz and Maya are pregnant by the same man. It draws great parallels. I only wish one of the marriages featuring prominently in the book could have been positive! A good friend of mine at work was born in India and was part of an arranged marriage. A friend of my parents in college went home to India for the summer and came back with a wife. I went to high school with their children and they’re still happily together. My experience with marriages in the Indian culture has been completely different from how Umrigar describes the relationships in this book.

The closest thing I found to a comment on marriage was from this interview on Umrigar’s website (the 4th question). She comments on how difficult communication is and I think we can see that a break in communication could be blamed for some (but not all) of the marriage problems in her book.


Question from ClaudiaThe one part of this section that left a memorable aftertaste was Bhima’s and Gopal’s back story; in fact, I was completely engrossed. Having said that however, I was completely take back by bar scene with Bhima’s response in light of Gopal’s abuse of alcohol! I mean, in a sense I was 100% supporting her rage and outburst, but then I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t think she would have the nerve to explode the way she did. With that in mind, do you think that Gopal’s decision would have differed if things did not play out the way they did? Do you feel that Gopal’s decision is justified? 

I’d been anxious to get to this part because I wanted to see how a relationship that seemed so strong and loving could turn sour and literally tear a family in two. Reading it broke my heart as well. However I don’t think I was as appalled by Bhima’s behavior in the bar as you, Claudia. I was rooting her on and I was proud of her for finding her inner strength because it seemed like she never would. I’d been hoping for it since Gopal started turning bitter after his accident.

I think Gopal and Bhima’s relationship was heading toward destruction before she exploded at him in the bar. I think her reaction only speed up the inevitable. His dependence on alcohol had severed his relationship with his family and what Bhima did was only an impotence for him to formally end it all. He might have left her later or under different circumstances or he might have drunk himself to death, but I think the chances of them growing old together were gone. I don’t think he was justified to leave her because of her behavior in the bar, but I understand why it pushed him.

He’d separated himself from his family and his friends from the bar were his new family and he was ashamed in front of them. He’d already lost his wife and children, losing his friends was too much.


Ashlee chose the musing topic for us this week and here’s her selection:

Discuss the secrets that are being kept in this novel. All of the main characters, just like all of us in the world, are carrying secrets around with them. Some secrets are to protect others (Sera hoping to protect her daughter by keeping the violence a secret) and some are to protect themselves (Viraf – you jerk!).

Oh the power of secrets. They’ve made quite the impact on this little book. I want to take this in a slightly different direction than what Ashlee proposed though. It’s easy to find secrets between any number of the characters; Dinaz and Viraf, Maya and Bhima, Sera and Dinaz, etc. But I can’t think of a single secret between Sera and Bhima. Bhima knows about the abuse that Sera suffered and Sera knows about Gopal’s difficulty finding work after his accident as well as the circumstances of Pooja’s death. These two women are very open with each other. They keep secrets from others and for others, but ‘the space between’ them is clear of secrets. I think that’s a kind of cool way to look at such destructive forces.



There’s only one more installment of this book! I read it already and wow, are we going to have a great discussion on the last bit. Be sure to tune in for that one and keep your eyes peeled for the next Read Along, which will begin after the holidays.

Until next time, write on.

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