cover image The World We Found

The World We Found

Thrity Umrigar. Harper, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-193834-4

Umrigar (The Space Between Us) illustrates India’s national identity crisis over the past 40 years through four friends who reconnect in this absorbing novel. Divorcée Armaiti is living in America with a daughter at Harvard when she’s given six months to live. Her last wish is to see her three best friends again—Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta, all in Bombay. In college, as idealistic Communists, they’d been inseparable, but now they’re barely in touch. Kavita is a successful architect, Laleh a wife and mother, and none of them have heard from Nishta in years. When they finally find her beneath a burkha in a strict Muslim neighborhood, it becomes clear that Nishta’s husband, Iqbal, a fellow university idealist turned fundamentalist, will be the biggest obstacle to fulfilling Armaiti’s final desire. Umrigar is never shy in her portrayal of a divided India, deftly pinpointing major issues facing the country today and tracing them through a legacy of cultural death and rebirth. Armaiti’s ruminations on unexpectedly encountering the end of one’s life and Kavita’s struggle to live openly as a lesbian despite supportive friends act as strong secondary narratives. Though none of the major story elements Umrigar employs are remotely fresh, her characters make this a rewarding novel. (Jan.)