I've heard a lot of great things about the author Thrity Umrigar and I've read several rave reviews for this book The Space Between Us and went in with quite some expectations, which went for a toss. Putting it simply, this book is too overtly dramatic, cliche and predictable for it to be anything more than an 'okay' read.
The book traces the lives of two women in Bombay, middle-class Parsi housewife Sera Dubash and her old, loyal maid Bhima; women separated by their class status. Both of these women have in common tragic stories to recount, be it of abusive husbands or betrayal. Bhima's grand daughter Maya, whose education Sera has taken care of with great love, turns up pregnant and refuses to name the father. Things will never be the same again for the two women, after this new tragedy.
Every single bad, tragic thing you can think of, happens to one of these women or their families. Poverty, AIDS, abuse, violence, slums, abortion; all of it features in the book. It's a bit like Slumdog Millionaire with more importance to female characters, a kind, rich boss and erm...no Jai Ho.
The story-line is very simplistic, formulaic and though Umrigar can definitely write well, with a plot that has limited scope, the book becomes repetitive easily. Much like some Bollywood movie, it relies on the drama, the overboard emotions and a very guessable 'surprise twist'. I figured out Maya's baby's father much before it was revealed.
There's just too much sadness in here: Umrigar piles on the agony, adds on more tragedy that it didn't move me to tears, just got too predictably irritating for me to care. However, to give credit where it is due, Umrigar captures poverty and the divide between the classes very well. I particularly loved these lines: 'The generosity of the poor, Sera marveled to herself. It puts us middle-class people to shame. They should hate our guts, really. Instead, they treat us like royalty '
I'd still try reading some of Umrigar's other novels, perhaps just to find out what the hype is all about. Because this book didn't explain it to me and probably was the wrong one to pick. I wouldn't really recommend this book to anyone. But if you don't mind a predictable, fast read, go ahead and pick this.