Bonnie Brody's Reviews > The World We Found

The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
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Feb 28, 12

Recommended to Bonnie by: Joan Bain
Read in November, 2011

Lalah, Kavita, Nishta and Armaiti were inseparable all during their college years when they worked together in India on socialist and humanitarian causes, played the guitar and sang, demonstrated, and flirted with boys. Together, they went from being girls of seventeen to young women of twenty-two. It is now thirty years later when this book opens and Armaiti is in the United States and dying. She has just found out that she has an inoperable brain tumor and her last wish is to have her three friends fly to the U.S. from India and be with her before she dies. Though they have not been in touch much over the last decades, the memories and bonds of friendship have remained strong and infused with love.

Lalah has married Adish, a successful businessman of her own class. Together, they have built a family and remain much in love. Lalah was a true spirit to be reckoned with when young and she retains that impulsivity and idealism that were her currency in youth. They live in a luxurious high-rise in Bombay and have two teen-aged children. Lalah has regressed into some magical thinking. When they were young, she did not participate in a march that Armaiti was in and during that march, Armaiti got hit in the head and suffered a concussion and some amnesia. Lalah thinks this is the reason for Armaiti's brain tumor and that if she'd been at the march as planned she could have somehow protected Armaiti. She blames herself.

Kavita is single and a successful architect in Bombay. She had a long-held crush on Armaiti that she never told Armaiti about and she is still pretty much in the closet. She does have a German lover who she does business with and they are in love. For most of the world, however, Kavita, plays the role of the successful single woman and a spinster, caring for her mother who is ill.

Nishta married Iqban, a Muslim. In their early years together, she had high hopes of transcending social taboos in India and making this marriage work despite the fact that she is a Hindu and comes from a higher class. Marrying Iqban cost her her parents and they have not talked to her for thirty years. Iqban has forced Nishta to convert to Muslim and wear a burqa, even getting her name changed to a more Muslim sounding one. Her life is like a jail. She cares for her mother-in-law who watches what she does and where she goes. She is terribly unhappy.

Armaiti went to graduate school in the U.S. and met her husband, Richard, there. Five years ago they divorced because Richard had an affair though they remain the best of friends. They have a college age daughter, Diane, to whom both Richard and Armaiti are very close. Armaiti is in love with life and coming to terms with dying is very difficult for her. What keeps her going is looking forward to the reunion of the four friends at her home.

There are some wonderful scenes of India and the novel provides information about the classes, religions, political uprisings, employment and educational system. My only quibble with the book is that it is too repetitive and some of it would be better off edited out. The novel is interesting, the character development fine, and I enjoyed it very much. I did not like it as much as The Space Between Us: A Novel (P.S.) but it's a close second.
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