Sunday, January 11, 2015

Book Review: The Story Hour

You know how it feels when you get to the end of a really good book and you think to yourself, "I can't wait to find another book by this skilled author?" Well, I had that feeling way back in 2009 when I read Thrity Umrigar's The Weight of Heaven. I loved that book and felt that passion for finding another book by Umrigar. However, somehow time intervened and I never got around to another one ... until now. Why, oh why, did I wait so long?

In The Story Hour, Umrigar tells the tale of two women: one an African-American professional and the other a lowly Indian shop girl. Maggie is a psychologist who is called upon to meet with this young Indian woman, Lakshmi, who has just attempted suicide. She was selected to go to this woman because Maggie is married to an Indian man, Sudhir. Hoping this commonality, of both sharing Indian husbands, will form a bond to open up a dialogue, Maggie attempts to break through Lakshmi's silence and discover what would cause her to get to the point of not wanting to live.

At first, it seems like Lakshmi's trouble is just the standard isolation of culture shock and trouble adapting. Maggie begins to allow Lakshmi deeper into her life as she unravels the story of Lakshmi's loveless marriage. She even begins to develop a more intimate friendship with her than she normally would in a client-doctor relationship. As the two come closer, secrets are divulged which tear at the very fabric of their lives and their friendship.

The novel touches on so many worthwhile themes. The question of arranged marriages and the damage such situations can bring. The idea of cultural barriers. The importance of love and forgiveness. The value of friendship. This is a novel I will think about for a long time to come. The two women wormed their way into my heart and it is as if they are real people for me. I felt their deepest desires and dreams. I ached when their hearts ached. I cried as I approached the climax of the plot progression. And now, I cannot wait to find another book by this fabulous author. She has such skill for weaving characters together and causing them to confront their innermost conflicts. I will not let another six years go by.

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