Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Space Between Us: A Novel” as Want to Read:
The Space Between Us: A Novel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Space Between Us: A Novel

3.97  ·  Rating Details  ·  29,108 Ratings  ·  3,021 Reviews
“This is a story intimately and compassionately toldagainst the sensuous background of everyday life in Bombay.” —Washington Post Book World

“Bracingly honest.” —New York Times Book Review

The author of Bombay Time,If Today Be Sweet, andThe Weight of Heaven,Thrity Umrigar is at adept andcompelling in The Space Between Us—vividlycapturing the social struggles of modern Indi
...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 10th 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Space Between Us, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Space Between Us

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Colby
Sep 19, 2015 Colby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite quote from this book:
"...How, despite our lifelong preoccupation with our bodies, we have never met face-to-face with our kidneys, how we wouldn't recognize our own liver in a row of livers, how we have never seen our own heart or brain. We know more about the depths of the ocean, are more acquainted with the far corners of outer space than with our own organs and muscles and bones. So perhaps there are no phantom pains after all; perhaps all pain is real; perhaps each long-ago blow
...more
Carol
Dec 04, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-book, favorites
What a fitting title for this book! The story is a shattering account of the soul crushing poverty of an Indian servant juxtaposed alongside her employer, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife. Bhima lives in a slum; but for over 20 years she has worked in the household of Sera Dubash. Over time, their lives become enmeshed in an unlikely friendship in spite of the ritualized “space” that can never be bridged…class divisions that that holds each woman in their destined positions.

It’s a lyrical,
...more
Agnes
Oct 13, 2007 Agnes rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh. This is the kind of novel I used to like - exploring gender and class issues in a foreign setting - but I found it unsatisfying. The author describes the crushing powerlessness of illiteracy and poverty well, but the rest of the book I found overly dramatic.

*SPOILER ALERT*

The one redeeming feature of the book to me was the fact that the two women characters in the book whose lives are profiled, do NOT find a way to bridge the class gap between them. However, the flashbacks employed by the
...more
Debbie "DJ"
I could not put this book down from the moment I began to read. The characters are beautifully drawn out, and the writing superb. It's one of those books where the story just stays with you. Life in Bombay with it's sharp lines between poverty and wealth. The significance of the educated over the uneducated. The trials and hardships of women dominated by men. The main character of this book has been a servant to a higher class and well educated family for so many years the ties become as strong ...more
Will Byrnes
Jun 02, 2015 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Glenn
Jul 24, 2007 Glenn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
In Thrity Umrigar's transportive novel, we come to know Bombay, as well as its residents, in its ugliness, its evocative beauty, and its uniqueness; and find how rare and difficult it is for people to transverse different parts of it, geographically and culturally.

Throughout The Space Between Us, there are details presumably unfamiliar to the reader not conversant with the colloquial language of Bombay; the rhyming, the slang; yet, it hardly matters, as the thrust and emotional meaning of each l
...more
Lee
Jun 27, 2009 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a gorgeous story about friendship, family relationships and the artificial barriers created between the classes in India. From the first page, I was sucked into the life of Bhima, a hardworking servant to an upper middle class, Parsi housewife named Sera. Bombay is powerfully present as the book opens with Bhima awakening to the sounds and smells of the slum around her. I felt I was right inside her head and eavesdropping on the constantly fluctuating emotions of these two women was wond ...more
Angela M
Aug 13, 2014 Angela M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written story telling the side by side yet intertwined stories of two women from different classes in Bombay , India . It's sad , really heartbreaking at times as we come to know the stories of Sera , a wealthy woman, and her loyal servant , Bhimi , whose life in the slums is a stark contrast .

In spite of the class difference and the deeply rooted societal space between them , these women are bonded somehow as they share their personal heartaches . Yet , the space remains .
...more
Elyse
Dec 04, 2015 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this when the book first came out.

There are other more recent reviews...(wonderful reviews written on this site)

The story takes place in Bombay (before the name change, Mumbai) --during a time when I visited myself. 'Contemporary' -present day India (when it this was written).

Two women: one upper class. The other a servant.

One of the things that this book brought up for me --is the reminder that no matter how different two people might be (educated or not -wealthy or poor) --
emotions of
...more
Nerissa
Nov 03, 2009 Nerissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-written but not-so-subtle exploration of how class, gender power, and generational differences isolate the two female protagonists in India.

Spoiler Alert:
I would have given it more points, but I felt like the author trotted out every stereotypical horror that could befall her female characters. Spousal abuse? Check. Domineering Indian mother-in-law? Check. Wife getting AIDS because her husband brought it home from a prostitute? Check. "Orphan" living in the slums? Check. Wife bei
...more
Connie
The Space Between Us is a novel about the relationship between two Indian women, the upper-middle class Serabai, and her lower class servant, Bhima. The lives of these two likable women have parallel experiences that connect them, but there is always that "space between them" due to class differences. Poverty, education, family, and gender roles are also explored in the story. In India's patriarchal society men hold the power, and abuse of women of all classes is often overlooked.

The author als
...more
Jo Anne B
This was a well told story about the lives of two women from different classes in modern-day India. Bhima is a servant to the upper middle class Serabai. Even though they have vastly different economic incomes, both have had their share of unhappiness. This book is about their unhappiness and also about the injustice done unto the uneducated lower class by those above them.

Despite being there to witness each other's pain and suffering, Bhima and Serabai will never be close because they are from
...more
Suzanne
Jul 03, 2013 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Space Between Us is set in Bombay, India. It is very far away. I am familiar with it only through literature and TV news snippets. Thrifty Umrigar, the author and a seasoned journalist, draws an exacting picture of the two Bombays that the middle class Sera, a Parsi and Bhima, a Hindu servant inhabit.

The middle class family lives much like a middle class family in the U S. They have a car, a multi room apartment , a bathroom,a college educated child, disposable income, and a sick and ornery
...more
Mmars
Sep 21, 2013 Mmars rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why do all the books I read set in modern day India have to be both so incredibly sad and so incredibly well written? I guess that's not difficult to answer. The British influence on English education remains. Economic, education, and class/caste disparities perpetuate ---- as the title suggests and the story centers on, in "The Space Between Us."

Two women, middle class and servant class by birth. Both riddled by marriage difficulties, though of different circumstance. It is this that emotionall
...more
Sweetdhee
hati-hati dengan lelaki yang penuh dengan pesona..
#halah

Bhima, seorang pelayan yang mengabdi kepada keluarga Sera semenjak masih gadis
Mengalami pahitnya cinta yang hilang karena liciknya perlakuan terhadap kaum buruh yang dialami suaminya
Hingga suaminya pergi bersama anak lelaki kebanggaannya entah kemana
Anak perempuannya meninggal bersama dengan menantunya karena AIDS

Yang tertinggal hanya cucu nya, Maya
Yang ia besarkan sepenuh hati dan tenaga
Agar tidak lagi menjadi sekedar pelayan sepertinya

Ser
...more
Zeek
Visceral, frightening that this kind of world exists for women- still, and unbelievably sad, I had a hard time getting through this book- especially when I figured out a major plot twist early on. However sharply this novel focuses on the life of a poor woman in Bombay India, which it did well, it lacked a certain sense of hope that I need by the end of a tale to make me fall for a story.

Sure Bhima, the main character, let go of her pain in the end, and I suppose sometimes the sense of utter hop
...more
Jeanette
Jun 12, 2013 Jeanette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this book, and like everything by this author. But so far, this one is my favorite.

There is a relationship of long service (and obligation too that is connected) between people of different classes here in this book. And that exists in other cultures, as well- besides Thrity's. Very similar, if not identical fusion of a mindset for "our" welfare.

In this PC age, those multifaceted bonds are almost all completely lost. Either within individuals' whims or "rights" or employee/employer defi
...more
Book Concierge
In present-day Bombay, Bhima leaves her slum each day to work as a domestic in a wealthy widow’s home. She has faithfully served this woman, Sera Dubash, for decades and prides herself on caring for the family. Sera is an upper-middle-class Parsi, but her social status has not protected her from an abusive husband and mother-in-law. In Sera’s home Bhima has witnessed the intimate details of the family’s life, and cared for Sera’s injuries; in return Sera has helped Bhima deal with the hospital w ...more
Mary
Aug 22, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2016, india
Or perhaps it is that time doesn’t heal all wounds at all, perhaps that is the biggest lie of them all, and instead what happens is that each wound penetrates the body deeper and deeper until one day you find that the sheer geography of your bones – the angle of your head, the jutting of your hips, the sharpness of your shoulders, as well as the luster of your eyes, the texture of your skin, the openness of your smile – has collapsed under the weight of your griefs.
Jo
Aug 14, 2016 Jo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes in this book, the relentless harshness of the life of Bhima the Hindu housekeeper almost gets too much. Yet, many of us read to learn about other cultures and countries, to step outside our comfy little world and realize that there are many different realities. It also helps that Thrity Umigar writes so beautifully with many lines and paragraphs that require re-reading. (The paragraph that Colby noted in her review was one of my favorites)

It is not only Bhima who suffers tragedy and ab
...more
Beth
Feb 27, 2014 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-on-kindle
The more I think about this book, the more I realize how much I liked it.

The most important thing to me when I am reading is the characters - does the writer give me a good feel for who they are, whether good or evil, and at the end of the book, do I care what happens to them?

The author had two main characters in this book, both women - one educated and wealthy, and the other her servant. We learn a lot about their lives and their struggles, and their relationship in a culture where mistress and
...more
Casey
Sep 30, 2010 Casey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adults, 2010
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Candice
Jul 06, 2008 Candice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ellen, Jamie, people who like books set in India
I had wanted to read this book for a long time and finally got a chance. Now I have a new author to add to my favorites. This was a wonderful book and well-written. I like books set in India.

It is the story of two women - an upperclass Parsi, Sera, and her lower caste illiterate housekeeper, Bhima. Although prejudices exist - Sera does not permit Bhima to sit on their furniture, and Bhima must use her own glass for drinking at Sera's house - the two form a friendship and are privy to each other'
...more
Jessica
Jun 01, 2016 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
"All these tears shed in the world, where do they go? she wondered. If one could capture all of them, they could water the parched, drought-stricken field of Gopal's village and beyond. Then perhaps these tears would have value and all this grief would have some meaning. Otherwise it is all a waste, just an endless cycle of birth and death, of love and loss."

And there you have this book. Nothing good ever happened to anyone in this book. It just about made me not wish to read another book that
...more
Kathy
Dec 23, 2015 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Reminds me a bit of Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity and The Rent Collector with the description of life in Bombay's slums.
Dana
Jan 04, 2016 Dana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book- I was drawn into both Bhima and Sera, even though they both had their flaws. Bhima is a poor servant who serves Sera's household. While Sera treats Bhima better than other housewives treat their servants, there is still a division between the two women, despite the friendship that has developed between both families. Thrity Umrigar is a wonderful writer, and I found myself hooked from the first page.
Em
May 03, 2011 Em rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in Indian fiction
I really was captivated by this book when I started it yesterday. Such easy flow of words, a world which I have seen and experienced, strong female characters and the phantom smell of India and its soil was too irresistible a combination. But the end has left me displeased. It is as if a favorite pupil who constantly performed well has somehow bungled up the final examination. But on the whole a totally recommendable book. This story deals with two females - from opposite ends of the social stra ...more
Erica
Feb 26, 2013 Erica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Annalisa
Apr 24, 2009 Annalisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is nothing wow about this book, but that's not a bad thing. Sometimes it's nice to read a good thoughtful read without any gimmicks. It's a well written dissection of class separation in India. Through the tragedies in life, we see how illiteracy and lack of money expound problems, as do the expectations that we set on people. But more than that I was left with the impression that we never know what is going on in other people's lives, especially the people we envy, admire, or even feel va ...more
Josie
Sep 13, 2011 Josie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I noticed it was a very smooth read. It flowed so well I just flew through the book. Not really because I was dying to see what happened next, but just because of the easiness of it. But from my experience with easy to read books, they often lack detail. The characters physical attributes were rarely mentioned and when they were they were vague. For instance Bhimas scanty hair, the wrinkles on ones face or how Viraf was "handsome" hardly gives us a clear visual. But I don't think it was needed a ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Some thoughts about this book 8 88 Jul 13, 2016 05:54PM  
2016 Reading Chal...: The Space Between Us 1 10 Jun 07, 2016 07:43AM  
Bound Together: Space Between Us Discussion 39 111 Jun 02, 2014 02:33AM  
Books: Passports ...: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (India) 1 10 Feb 17, 2013 06:51AM  
Moving and Haunting 5 54 Oct 06, 2012 01:52PM  
  • A Breath of Fresh Air
  • Sister of My Heart (Anju and Sudha, #1)
  • The Toss of a Lemon
  • The Death of Vishnu (The Hindu Gods, #1)
  • Ladies Coupé
  • Haunting Bombay
  • Partitions
  • Desirable Daughters
  • What the Body Remembers
  • In the Convent of Little Flowers
  • Tamarind Woman
  • The Hindi-Bindi Club
  • An Atlas of Impossible Longing
  • The Sari Shop
  • The Writing on My Forehead
  • The Forbidden Daughter
  • A Golden Age
  • Cracking India
127875
A journalist for seventeen years, Thrity Umrigar has written for the Washington Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and other national newspapers, and contributes regularly to the Boston Globe's book pages. Thrity is the winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize, a Lambda Literary award and the Seth Rosenberg prize. She teaches creative writing and literature at Case Western Reserve University. The author ...more
More about Thrity Umrigar...

Share This Book



“Or perhaps is is that time doesn't heal wounds at all, perhaps that is the biggest lie of them all, and instead what happens is that each wound penetrates the body deeper and deeper until one day you find that the sheer geography of your bones - the angle of your hips, the sharpness of your shoulders, as well as the luster of your eyes, the texture of your skin, the openness of your smile - has collapsed under the weight of your griefs.” 105 likes
“ Perhaps the body has its own memory system, like the invisible meridian lines those Chinese acupuncturists always talk about. Perhaps the body is unforgiving, perhaps every cell, every muscle and fragment of bone remembers each and every assault and attack. Maybe the pain of memory is encoded into our bone marrow and each remembered grievance swims in our bloodstream like a hard, black pebble. After all, the body, like God, moves in mysterious ways.

From the time she was in her teens, Sera has been fascinated by this paradox - how a body that we occupy, that we have worn like a coat from the moment of our birth - from before birth, even - is still a stranger to us. After all, almost everything we do in our lives is for the well-being of the body: we bathe daily, polish our teeth, groom our hair and fingernails; we work miserable jobs in order to feed and clothe it; we go to great lengths to protect it from pain and violence and harm. And yet the body remains a mystery, a book that we have never read. Sera plays with this irony, toys with it as if it were a puzzle: How, despite our lifelong preoccupation with our bodies, we have never met face-to-face with our kidneys, how we wouldn't recognize our own liver in a row of livers, how we have never seen our own heart or brain. We know more about the depths of the ocean, are more acquainted with the far corners of outer space than with our own organs and muscles and bones. So perhaps there are no phantom pains after all; perhaps all pain is real; perhaps each long ago blow lives on into eternity in some different permutation and shape; perhaps the body is this hypersensitive, revengeful entity, a ledger book, a warehouse of remembered slights and cruelties.

But if this is true, surely the body also remembers each kindness, each kiss, each act of compassion? Surely this is our salvation, our only hope - that joy and love are also woven into the fabric of the body, into each sinewy muscle, into the core of each pulsating cell?”
35 likes
More quotes…