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The Space Between Us

(Between Us #1)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  42,683 ratings  ·  4,086 reviews
Set in modern-day India, it is the story of two compelling and achingly real women: Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose opulent surroundings hide the shame and disappointment of her abusive marriage, and Bhima, a stoic illiterate hardened by a life of despair and loss, who has worked in the Dubash household for more than twenty years.
Paperback, 321 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Harper Perennial (first published January 10th 2006)
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J C Yes. I "read" the audio version of the book which is unusual for me but I absolutely loved the story and the narration was exceptional .…moreYes. I "read" the audio version of the book which is unusual for me but I absolutely loved the story and the narration was exceptional .(less)
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Elena May
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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 ·  42,683 ratings  ·  4,086 reviews

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Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-books-ever
This book ravaged my soul and kidnapped my heart. I don't believe I will ever be the same upon finishing this masterpiece of a novel. This book rocked me to my core; It changed every fiber of my being. The premise of this book is simple. However, what transpires over the course of this novel, is anything but. Morals are tested; lines in the sand are drawn.

Now.. I need to talk about the writing, or, maybe artistry is a better word. I am definitely having an "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy" mome
Jul 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Will Byrnes
Oct 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A book that makes a deep impression....
Sometimes I just had to stop reading. So much sadness and misery, there's only so much I can take.
Poverty, illness, death, abuse, rape, abortion, disrespect, distinctions of class, condescension, it's all in this book. But it is also about a grandmother fighting to make a life for her granddaughter. And that's tough to say the least, living in the slums of Bombay and facing grim reality and poverty every day. She's a fighter.
Impressive, but to be honest I
Jun 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, owned-book
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,
Angela M
Dec 01, 2013 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 .
Apr 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Debbie "DJ"
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Elyse  Walters
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Nearly ten years have passed since this The Space Between Us was first published and it continues to be printed and carried on library shelves. With nearly 30,000 reviews on Goodreads, my contribution will be a tiny drop in an ocean of years of thoughts, but as the novel is actively in current circulation I'm happy to add a few "bon mots" to the pile.

The caste system in modern India continues to be represented significantly in literature, as the improvements in the economy have not been able to
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: india, 2009, favourites
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
Jul 24, 2007 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
Tea Jovanović
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've read this novel as uncorrected proof, i.e. before publishing... and liked it... but the agency representing the rights for Serbia always asks too much money and that's the reason why I didn't buy the rights... For the same reason many good books will never be published in Serbia... :( ...more
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookriot
This story...

Bombay, India-- Bhima is living in the slums, raising her granddaughter- seemingly all alone. You can tell by her actions, movements, and words that she's lived a difficult life- just how tough we learn throughout the book. Bhima works as a servant for Sera Dubash- a wealthy Indian woman, who also has lived a tough life bound with secret pain. Bhima & Sera come together to survive the abusive familial relationships in their respective lives.

The book is mostly set in present day wit
Paul Lockman
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-favourites
What a great way to start the new year with a 5 star read. The people and the streets of Mumbai come alive in this delightful and at times heartbreaking story. Thrity Umrigar emigrated to the USA from India at the age of 21 and her in depth experience of living in Mumbai is so evident in the beautiful and raw descriptions of life in this teeming city of 10+ million people.

We follow the lives of poor, illiterate Bhima who lives in the slums of the city and the rich Dubash family she works for. A
Elena May
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: six-stars
HELP!!! Goodreads is broken! It doesn’t let me give this masterpiece six stars 😭

I wonder if I should now go back and reduce all my ratings by a star because close to nothing I’ve rated 5-star in the past comes anywhere near this pure quality.

“All the 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 fields in Gopal's village and beyond. Then perhaps these tears would have value and all this grief wou
Connie G
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 STARS.

I'll be honest- I used to read every book that came out that took place in India. I found them so fascinating but ultimately very depressing. So I stopped reading them till this one- I picked this one up because of all the great reviews plus earlier this year I read "Everybody's Son" by this author and loved it.
In this earlier book (pub 2005), we are in Bombay pre 1995 (became Mumbai in 1995). This book is about 2 women Sera and Bhima- master and servant- who develop an underlying frie
Jo Anne B
Feb 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Two women in the city of Mumbai have similar feelings and disappointments, yet so much is different. Their homes, their options, their understanding, and as we learn, their coping mechanisms are at opposite ends of a spectrum, all because of their status in society and the opportunities that status has provided or forbidden.

“Because they own the world, you see. They have the machines and the money and the factories and the education. We are just the tools they use to get all those things. You kn
Jun 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Set in Mumbai, this is the story of two women of vastly different backgrounds, whose lives nevertheless have a number of parallels, allowing a kind of warm and caring relationship to develop between them.

Bhima, abandoned by her husband a long time ago, lives in a slum with her orphaned granddaughter. Although her body is old and tired, she applies it vigorously to tending the Dubash family and their home every day, taking care of the shopping, cooking, nursing and cleaning, before returning to t
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, india, fiction
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.
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
Missy J
Captivating journey through Bombay's society!

The Space Between Us is a very fitting title to the story of two women in Bombay - Sera, a Parsi from the upper-class and her domestic helper Bhima, who lives in the slum only 15 minutes away. Thrity Umrigar slowly reveals to us their lives. Both women have radically different lives, yet there are overarching themes that bring them together - their love for their children, their hopes for a better future, facing the ugly reality of machismo in India e
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This story focuses on three women in India and the caste system.

The reader is quickly made aware that the young teenage granddaughter, Maya, is pregnant out of wedlock and lives with her grandmother, Bhima. No one knows who the father is. Through her pregnancy, which is considered a big problem, the author takes you on a journey through the struggles of different classes in India are revealed-- Bhima retells the story of her life through the challenges of poor social status. While Sera, a high c
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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. 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

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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.” 125 likes
“You felt a deep sorrow, the kind of melancholy you feel when you're in a beautiful place and the sun is going down” 57 likes
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