Back again with another (delayed) installment of my summer reading list! During my second week of summer vacation, in addition to teaching at the Fine Lines Summer Writing Camp, I read my June Book Club book, The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar. The book was published last summer, which means our book club found it earlier than we usually do! Set mostly in India (with certain chapters set in the US), Umrigar’s book is the story of a friendship that stands the test of time and distance; and a story of the ways we change as we get older.
Four women, friends since their college days of utopian ideals and willingness to protest injustice, are brought together again by a diagnosis and a wish. Armaiti, the transplant to America, has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and her prognosis is grim. In her final months, she has a fervent desire to see her best friends once again and to introduce them to her beloved daughter.
Bringing this wish to fruition is not easy. Each woman has her own dragons to slay in order to see Armaiti again. For one (Laleh), it is grappling with self-imposed guilt over something that happened while they were students, and an admittance that the ideals she upheld as a young woman may not have been as realistic as she once thought. For another (Kavita), it is dealing with the attraction she felt to Armaiti and her shame in admitting to her friends that she is in a long-term relationship with another woman. For the third (Nishta), it is attempting to escape from the rigid orthodoxy her husband forced upon her following the Hindu/Muslim riots many years before.
I appreciated the way Umrigar gave each woman her own story and enjoyed walking beside them as they dealt with the issues that constrained them. With each of them, at times, I wanted to turn and shake her. Though I do not share the same political views or the women’s disregard for religion, I was able to identify with certain character traits of each of them. These relatable characters made the book a very quick read. Since I have never been to India, I also enjoyed having the chance to journey there through the eyes of these women. I was able to see it as it was, and as they hoped it could be.
As a book club full of strong-minded women, we often choose books that emphasize the relationships women form. This was certainly one of those books. I am anxious to meet with my book club and discover their thoughts!