Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Story Hour; Thrity Umrigar

The Story Hour; Thrity Umrigar
Harper - August 2014

Maggie Bose is a 56 year old psychologist who is married to a professor from India.  She is a black woman who has become successful despite growing up poor and being sexually abused as a child.  One day she gets a new client, a 30-something, Indian woman named Lakshmi who has just attempted suicide. Every week following her release from the hospital, the two of them meet for a one hour therapy session at Maggie’s home office. 

Lakshmi’s suicide attempt stems from several factors. She is in a loveless marriage to an verbally abusive man, cut off from her family (she moved to the US from India 6 years earlier), she is friendless and even though she works long hours at her husband’s restaurant, she has no money of her own. She is dependent on her husband for every little thing. In India, Lakshmi was a woman with pride yet in the mid western town she now lives her life is lonely and her self-respect gone.

As Maggie and Lakshmi meet for their weekly therapy sessions, Maggie is confident that all her client needs is a friend and some confidence to begin to feel some self-worth. Maggie tries to maintain professional boundaries yet she tells Lakshmi that her husband Sudhir is an Indian man so that she begins to feel comfortable with their sessions. Before long, Lakshmi is bringing Sudhir his favorite Indian dishes and she is starting to feel that Maggie is more friend than therapist. At her weekly sessions she shares more about her life in India and even sheds light as to why her husband feels the way he does about her. 

Although Maggie is shocked by what she learns about Lakshmi's marriage, she has some secrets about her own marriage that she has attempted to keep secret, until one day Lakshmi discovers the truth. Despite all the help Maggie has been to build Lakshmi’s confidence and to make her more independent -- she’s taught her to drive, found her jobs catering for small parties and is cleaning houses, when Lakshmi discover the secret Maggie's been hiding she is angry and shocked and without thinking seeks revenge against the woman who has helped her.

The Story Hour brings together two very different women each carrying their share of guilt and secrets. Told primarily in the alternating voices of each woman,  I must admit that initially, I found reading the broken English narrative of Lakshmi to very a bit off putting, but once I eventually got used to it., and understand that, it did make her character more authentic.  As with her earlier novels, the author has created a compelling story and characters that you will remember after the final page is turned. 

⅘ stars
(review copy sent by publisher)

15 comments:

  1. You give us a lot of lovely books Diane, thank you, and thank you also for the sweet comments on my blog :)

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  2. This novel sounds intriguing. Terrific review, Diane!

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  3. I have to adjust to language like the broken English you describe too. This book sounds terrific to me.

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  4. This sounds like something I would really enjoy. Thanks for the great review.

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  5. That really does sound quite interesting!

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  6. I think the broken English would take me a while to get used to, too. Adding the book to my wish list!

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  7. If the broken English becomes almost a caricature then it may be difficult to even accept. I dislike profiling of what characters should be like depending on race, country of origin.

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  8. In reading excerpts from this book, I've noticed the broken English and felt that it would definitely hinder my enjoyment in the beginning, but I'm glad to hear that you got used to it...as the story sounds powerful. I can't wait to discover the shocking secret and I'm on tenterhooks, wondering how far the revenge plot will go. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. I've been seeing this one around a lot lately. It does sound interesting...especially the fact that Lakshimi is an Indian living in the US. I read a nonfiction memoir by an Indian woman living with depression in the US and the cultural differences between how India views mental illness and how the US views it were really interesting.

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  10. I have only read one Umrigar book and I didn't have too much success with it. I have to try more of her books. She definitely writes a beautiful hand.

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  11. Just brought this book home. I've enjoyed her previous books and do look forward to beginning this one.

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  12. Great review! Does make me wonder about the secrets they were hiding.

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  13. I really enjoyed this one and I got used to Lakshmi's voice a lot more quickly than I'd feared. Although I kind of hated Maggie, overall I loved the book.

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  14. I've been meaning to read one of her books so I'll keep this in mind.

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  15. I'm just always amazed by the ways Umrigar makes readers think and think for themselves.

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