Monday, December 19, 2011

The World We Found

The World We Found, by Thrity Umrigar.

She made a face. "I was the ugly duckling of the group, I'm afraid."

"Are you kidding me? My God, Mom, you're still beautiful. Jeez, have you seen how Dad looks at you, still? Like he - like he could just inhale you or something." Diane sucked her cheeks in.

Armaiti squeezed her daughter's hand. "You're funny. Anyway, it doesn't matter who was pretty and who wasn't. What matters is" - and here she hesitated, wanted to get it right the first time - "that ... that these three women gave me something. A sense of belonging in the world, but more than that. A sense that the world belonged to me. Do you understand? A belief that it was my world - our world. To shape it as we wanted. That we never had to settle for things as they were, you know?

Diane was looking at her intently, her big eyes searching her face, and Armaiti saw how perilously young her daughter still was. Something about that look broke her heart. "You still believe that, Mom? About changing the world?" Diane asked.

How simple, how lovely, it would be to answer with a direct, honest yes.

I had never heard of the author Thrity Umrigar before reading this novel, but it is one of the best novels I have read in quite a long time, even though I was unfamiliar with India's history before this. Umrigar is the author of four other novels and a memoir, and I will definitely be reading some of her other work in the future.

The World We Found focuses on four women who were friends in college. Laleh and Nishta are still married to their college sweethearts; however, Laleh's husband Adish does well for himself and they have a happy household, with two teenage children, and Nishta's husband Iqbal, a Muslim, has turned their household into more of a prison. Nishta changed her name to Zoha to "fit in" - or, more accurately, Iqbal forced her to - and she now wears a burqa while going outside. Kavita has been a closeted lesbian ever since their college days, when she was in love with Armaiti but never told her, and now Armaiti lives in the U.S. with her daughter, Diane, and Kavita is in a relationship with Ingrid, a business associate of hers. Although these four friends haven't seen each other in many years, when Armaiti tells them that she is dying of cancer and asks them to come to the States, they all agree. The most difficult part will be getting Nishta out, especially since Iqbal took away her cell phone and passport, but Laleh and Kavita are willing to do whatever it takes to reunite with Armaiti again before her demise.

This book was very, very well-written, and the characters are really brought to life. It reminded me in a weird way of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, minus them sharing a magical pair of pants, because the four women were so close at one point and now their lives are completely different and separate, for the most part. The end of the novel sort of leaves the possibility open for a sequel, but I doubt Umrigar will write one; it was one of those books where it leads up to an event at the end, and where all the events happen before that one big event, if that makes sense. I will still wonder what happened to Nishta, Laleh, Kavita, and Armaiti, though, which gives you an idea of how descriptive these characters are.

4.5 stars out of 5.

The World We Found will be in bookstores on January 3, 2012.

*Author's Note: I was given a copy of this novel to review. All opinions listed, however, are my own.


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