Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar - Part 2
Review Part 2
An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she agrees to treat a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store, Lakshmi is desperately lonely.
Moved by Lakshmi’s plight, Maggie offers to see her as an outpatient for free. In the course of their first sessions in Maggie’s home office, she quickly realizes that what Lakshmi really needs is not a shrink but a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient become close. Even though they seemingly have nothing in common, both women are haunted by loss and truths that they are afraid to reveal.
However, crossing professional boundaries has its price. As Maggie and Lakshmi’s relationship deepens, long-buried secrets come to light that shake their faith in each other and force them to confront painful choices in their own lives.
Okay, so I talked before about the speech thing and how it made the book harder to read and I wasn't sure it was necessary? Yeah, that's about the only thing I didn't like about this book.
Umrigar just never disappoints me, always taking me out of my little white suburban bubble to look at the world in a bigger way. Umrigar takes on a lot in The Story Hour but never loses control, exploring Indian culture, the immigrant experience, prejudice, guilt, identity, love, friendship, and marriage. Perhaps one of my favorite things about Umrigar is that she never give readers a tidy ending and The Story Hour is no exception.
The publisher's summary says that Maggie and Lakshmi are two women with nothing in common but that's not entirely true. Both women are married to Indian men, the bond that initially allows Lakshmi to open up to Maggie; both women lost their mothers at a young age, changing the trajectory of their lives; and both women are hiding a toxic secret. They also both come with prejudices that might have been a barrier to a friendship - Lakshmi harbors some of her husband's racism (Maggie is African-American) and Maggie initially considers Lakshmi to be beneath her friendship, something she is ashamed to discover at a dinner party.
Through Lakshmi's weekly visits, her story hours, the two become friends. Lakshmi brings a warmth into Maggie's life and a deeper appreciation for her husband and helps her find the strength to turn away from a harmful situation. Maggie's friendship give Laksmi the strength to stand up for herself and to grow into the person she might have been had she not gotten married. But sometimes it's hard not to judge. When Lakshmi's secret is revealed, Maggie's unable to provide the forgiveness and sympathy that Lakshmi needs from her friend, setting in motion events that end a friendship and a marriage. But can a story save both? Umrigar leaves her readers to decide that for themselves.
For other opinions about The Story Hour, check out the full TLC Book Tour. Presumably these folks have managed to get the book read on time!