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The Space Between Us

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  22,853 ratings  ·  2,594 reviews
Each morning, Bhima, a domestic servant in contemporary Bombay, leaves her own small shanty in the slums to tend to another woman's house. In Sera Dubash's home, Bhima scrubs the floors of a house in which she remains an outsider. She cleans furniture she is not permitted to sit on. She washes glasses from which she is not allowed to drink. Yet despite being separated from ...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

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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
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.


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
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
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
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 .
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
hati-hati dengan lelaki yang penuh dengan pesona..

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

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
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
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
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
Will Byrnes
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 06, 2008 Candice rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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'
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
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
Katherine Harms
Robert Burns once said, “Oh wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursel's as others see us!” You will think that power has come to rest in the pages of Thrity Umrigar’s novel, The Space Between Us, if you read attentively. In Chapter 8, Bhima, an aging resident of the Bombay slums remembers when she learned that white people are missing something in their biology that would give their skin color and protection from the sun. (The substance is melanin.) She feels bad for them, and wants to give ...more
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
Definitely 4.5 stars! This book is so well written. Why are Indian books so haunting? As I read Bhima's description of the slum, her home, and waiting in line for the water spout, I was immediately transported back to when I read "A Fine Balance" (also set in India, a book I read a long time ago but has stayed with me in so many poignant ways). I feel devastated by the utter poverty, and my seemingly innocent desire that these things do not truly happen in our world, and the sheer injustice of i ...more
Tina Ye
My original intention was to write a scathing review, but then I decided that wouldnt've been entirely fair. Basically, I should not have allowed the beautifully crafted "A Soldier of the Great War" to precede this book. "The Space Between Us" was comparatively a letdown, both in craft and in content. Though the plot was riveting in its own way, it does not avoid the usual clichés and pitfalls of the book's subgenre (i.e. a story about the trials and tribulations of women in non-Western cultures ...more
The Space Between Us was one of several books I read this year that were set in India. It was off to a bit of a slow start, and at first I found myself thinking that I had had enough of India and its slums. As the story unfolded and the complex relationship between Sera and Bhima developed, however, I found myself eager to unravel their pasts and discover their futures. The divisions of class are certainly not uniquely Indian, and the novel has a universal appeal and relevance. It was interestin ...more
Amanda (Amanda's Weekly Zen)
The Space Between Us is a fictional look at the relationship between two very different women. Set in modern day India the novel explores how class affects the lives of women. There are two main characters which the novel moves between. One woman is an upper class Parsi housewife, Sera Dubash and the other is her servant of twenty years, Bhima. The novel reveals the similarities that each woman has by focusing on domestic abuse, loss, and disappointments. The novel begins with the disappointment ...more
First off, the ending of the book was quite something! I have enjoyed most south Asian literature I've read to date - most of the south Asian literature I've read are incredibly descriptive, even if you are not South Asian and may never have been to the place, you feel you are there... and these books also often cover the past and present and alternating chapters, which was especially fitting in this book as you will often hear the characters say that the past is your present.

What I most enjoyed
Told between two woman, Sera and her servant Bhima, the novel pulls you in. While Bhima is from the "slums", she works hard for Sera's household, and is lucky enough to be treated with more respect than other servants. Bhima is a grandmother who life has kicked down but has left her with one thing, her pregnant grandchild, Maya.
Past stories are told in relevancy to the present story, something I find pleasant to read- often when books do this I skim past them but was engulfed with the past.
Nitya Sivasubramanian
The bane of much modern Indian writing, especially about women, is the tendency to idolize victim mentality. After all, with Sita, Savitri and Draupadi setting examples, who can be blamed for women believing that no matter how horrifying your marriage is, no matter how abusive your husband is and what crazy escapades he leads you into, it is your duty to follow blindly?

Thank goodness, then, for Thrity Umrigar and her delicious book, The Space Between Us.

Simultaneously following the lives of mid
The author's character development is superb as are her metaphoric descriptions of Bombai. I ached for each of the main females-- for Bhima, an illiterate servant from a low caste who though down on her luck, who suffers the loss of her daughter, and then husband and son, yet who slaves to ensure that her grand-daughter might have a better life than she; and for Sera, the upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose wealth and surroundings belie her shame of being abused by husband. Umrigar connects ...more
Julia Mukuddem
i really enjoyed this book, as i love stories that are set in india. the characters were amazing and i found myself struggling to put the book down each evening when i got tired.

i decided tonight to start reading earlier, and not just before i went to bed, as i wanted to finish this book. the whole time i thought i would give this book a good solid 4 stars, but now - after the end - i downgraded it to 3 stars. i was a bit disappointed with the end. :(

I loved this book. The content wasn't always a pleasure but the reading was. The writing in this book flows like honey even though the message is often bitter. This book looks at class and caste destinctions in India and how even if you love someone, your place in the social spectrum outweighs all... and it is understood.
A great story about the stark contrast between those that have and those that don't have, set in India. It is not a book that gives you a nice, succinct, happy ending. A story is told and then the day comes to a close, the book ends, and thus life goes on........
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Bound Together: Space Between Us Discussion 39 94 Jun 02, 2014 02:33AM  
Some thoughts about this book 7 82 Aug 21, 2013 09:52AM  
Books: Passports ...: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (India) 1 10 Feb 17, 2013 06:51AM  
Moving and Haunting 5 53 Oct 06, 2012 01:52PM  
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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. She teaches creative writing and literature at Case Western Reserve University. The author of The Space Between Us, Bombay Time, and the memoir First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of ...more
More about Thrity Umrigar...
The World We Found The Weight of Heaven If Today Be Sweet The Story Hour Bombay Time

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“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.” 87 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?”
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