The reason I consider Thrity Umrigar a unique writer is because she writes the truth and puts on paper the harsh reality people live in day in and day out.
Her writing is swift making it easy to read her books in a quick speed and yet knowing you aren’t reading a childish book or just simple words – but words that have the power to reach into your soul and wake you up to the rough facts and suffering the Indian people have to deal with in a constant basis.
This book is about a story of a couple that loses their only son and go to India as a way to escape their grief and try to salvage their marriage at the same time. In India Frank (the husband) gets extremely attached to their housekeeper’s young son, Ramihd to the point that he depends on the boy for his emotional survival and makes his life revolve around his daily activities with the child. His wife in the beginning isn’t too pleased with the large amount of attention her husband gives the young boy but gradually accepts the situation and even opposes herself to the jealous acts of the boy’s father because she sees how much importance her husband gives to his relationship with the child. Many different situations happen being that Frank’s obsession with the child is the center point of the story. By reading this book you come to the conclusion of how one little wrong decision leads to another and another until you can see no stop. You realize how good and simple people can come to drastic points in their lives and are capable of ruining everything and everyone they loved because of they - could not control their desire. What at once was only an extra became a need and what became a need in the end turned itself into a monster because you believed you could no longer live without it, and time and again you convinced yourself you HAD to have that – but the truth is that it was all lies that you let come into your head. As you must have guessed the end of this story is a surprising and remarkable tragedy.
So if you are looking for some chick lit or a fairy tale book then you’d better get something else to read. This book most certainly isn’t for you. But if you are looking for some good drama that will stick in your head for the next whole week then you’ve got the right book in your hand and I’m sure you won’t let go of it until you are done turning the last page.
Ellie and Frank have always had something like a fairy tale marriage. They are deeply in love with each other, and with their little boy, Benny. Then, one night when Frank is away on business in Thailand, Benny gets sick. At first it seems like it isn’t too much of anything, just a low fever that actually abates, so Ellie grabs a couple hours of sleep. Suddenly she wakes up to a terrible rash blooming over Benny’s lovely face. When Frank and Ellie lose Benny, the pretty much lose themselves too, they are no longer sure how to be a family without him, especially in their old town and their old house. Thus, when Frank is offered the opportunity to run his company’s factory in India, Ellie jumps at the chance for them to start over in a new place, but life in India is not the Bollywood movie she thinks it will be.
Oh my gosh, I just want to climb into this book and be carried along by the way that Umrigar makes language flow! Here’s a completely randomly chosen passage, just to show you how lovely her writing is:
The lightning flashed, and he saw her white, slender body for an instant before the darkness carried her away again. She was sitting erect and still, her back pressed against the wooden boards of the swing. But what made Frank’s heart lurch was the look on her face. She sat with her eyes closed, a beatific expression on her face, looking for all the world like one of the Buddha statues they had seen on a recent trip to the Ajanta caves. She seemed to feel none of the agitation, the exciting turmoil, that was coursing through his body. Ellie seemed far away, as distant as the moon he could not see. Slipping away from his hands.
Ah, gorgeous! Umrigar is an incredibly skilled writer, she can take the narration from one character’s head to another from chapter to chapter, maintaining a separate voice for each of them. She even takes one chapter into second person and does it well, which is not easy.
Sometimes those who write well neglect their plot. Not so with Umrigar! Frank and Ellie’s story of loss and coping with the pain in their own lives and the difficulties of moving to a country so unlike their own was captivating. The novel was beautifully structured as well, beginning and ending in their present, with entire flashback sections devoted to their meeting and Benny’s death, both of which added even more to the already well-drawn characters.
Loved it. Want to read her entire backlist.
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