Sunday, 10 August 2014

Review: The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

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.

With Thrity Umrigar's remarkable sensitivity and singular gift for an absorbing narrative, The Story Hour explores the bonds of friendship and the margins of forgiveness.

ebook, 320 pages
Expected publication: August 19th 2014 by Harper 
Genre: Womens Fiction

Kristine's Thoughts:

I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Harper via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

This book tells the story of two woman from completely different backgrounds and what happens when professional lines are blurred, secrets are revealed  and actions are taken. Lakshmi is an Indian woman living in the United States with a husband who does not love her and her days are spent helping in the restaurant and store that they own. She has no contact with her family in India and leads a very lonely life. Maggie is a psychologist living a comfortable life with a husband who loves her. Their paths cross when Lakshmi ends up in the hospital after a failed attempt to commit suicide. Maggie is asked to take on her case when Lakshmi refuses to talk to anyone and her boss thinks that she can help because she is married to an Indian man. It doesn't take long for the professional relationship to turn to friendship and for Lakshmi to become a part of Maggi and Sudhir's lives.

The story is told from the point of view of both women. Lakshmi tells her story in the first person but what is unusual is that the author pens it in her broken and uneducated English. At first I found it odd but as I continued to read I thought that it was very effective in showing the reader how difficult the transition from India to the United States was for her. I've said it many times before but I really enjoy stories that have more than one point of view. It is easier to empathise and get into the characters heads through this style.

The story was well written, well developed and flowed nicely. I really enjoyed Lakshmi's character and story. I didn't like Maggie near as much as I had hoped to. I found her to be a little selfish and judgemental for someone in her field. Although both woman had flaws. secrets and made mistakes, I found that I had a lot more sympathy for Lakshmi than Maggie.

Ultimately it is a story of boundaries, cultural differences, friendship, growth, love and betrayal. I thought it was a wonderful and unique story of two opposite women. I would definitely recommend this book to others and plan to check out Umrigar's other work.

About the Author
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. She teaches creative writing and literature at Case Western Reserve University. The author of The Space Between Us, Bombay Time, and the memoir First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood, she was a winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University. She has a Ph.D. in English and lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

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