Date Completed: (10/16/2015)
A mother’s story chronicling her children’s lives and the lives of the children next door, Umrigar spins a fabulous tale that removes the importance of chronology and gives a breath of fresh air to those of us whose minds jump from one decade to the next constantly.
Although I initially felt unsure about the presence of her late husband as a ghost in her head, I think he played a valuable role in her story.This story questions privilege and who has privilege because Tehmina is constantly evaluating what is right in the world. Towards the end of the story she thinks to herself, “How could she blame Krishna for looking to the bottle as an antidote to his misery? How could she not understand why Parvati hit her children when the woman often pummeled her own chest out of remorse and frustration? But Tara. Born white in America. Living in a good, middle-class home, even if it didn’t belong to her. Able to afford a car, even if the muffler didn’t work. Able to send her children to school for free. Able to go into a grocery store and spend less of her income on food than people in any other country. All this and it wasn’t enough? If someone like Tara couldn’t be happy, what chance did people in the rest of the world have?” Tehmina’s words struck a chord with me, as I am constantly comparing and contrasting, curious about how privilege works in the world.
Thrity Umrigar worked as a journalist for much of her life before turning to work as a novelist recently. She’s now written seven novels, all of them relating to India or Indians in some way, most of the stories involving Indian women, as I believe that is nearest and dearest to her heart and her own experience. She does have a memoir of her childhood in India, First Darling of the Morning. I look forward to reading more from her.