Thursday, January 19, 2012
Review: The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
Armaiti, Laleh, Nishta and Kavita were best friends in University, inseparable and spirited students. They were different from the others; they were passionate about the political- not the personal. “Broken hearts, broken fingernails, broken promises-all the things that their classmates fretted over, they dismissed.” As fellow revolutionaries they challenged authority and protested for what they believed in. It has since been thirty years and the women have drifted apart, when Armaiti is diagnosed with a brain tumor, her dying wish is to see her friends one more time. Kavita and Laleh have remained close friends, and struggle with their feelings about Armaiti’s impending death. Their shared history and bond have never changed their feelings towards each other, and Kavita and Laleh want to fulfill her wish and travel to America. They must find Nishta. Nishta, the one they were so proud of, a Hindu who married a Muslim man. As a result of her love, she was disowned by her parents. Over the years Nishta has drifted away from everyone and disappeared. When the women find Nishta, they are surprised to find her living a life they never imagined. Her husband, once liberal socialist has become a devout Muslim after the riots changed him forever. Nishta has to obey his every word. He has become a skeptical, disillusioned, bitter man and she has to endure his temper. Nishta knows he will never allow her to go see Armaiti. She is living under lock and key, and drowning under his commands.
Readers will find themselves lost in the world of Armaiti, Laleh, Nishta and Kavita. The world they now find themselves in is very different from what they imagined. Armaiti is living in America, divorced and still depending on the ex-husband who had an affair. She had months to live, and must come to terms with what’s important and what she should let go. Laleh has married her university boyfriend, and together they have built a wealthy, comfortable life. Laleh would give up her materialist possessions in a heartbeat if it meant proving her point. Her husband at times is furious with her feisty temperament, but he has learned to accept the woman he loves. Kavita is a successful architect, living a secret. She has a secret girlfriend but doesn’t know how to tell anyone. It had been years, and she hasn’t even told Laleh. Nishta is living in a prison, her every step is accounted for and she gave up everything for a man who she now wants to leave.
The story is less about the reunion, and more about the journey to the reunion. I felt like I was taking the journey with these old friends. I was rooting for all the friends. Nishta really stole my heart, and we see her struggle. She loves the man she fell in love with but not the man he has become. Each character has a strong, unique voice. Occasionally, when there are many main characters I feel a stronger connection with one or two, in this case I felt connected to everyone. I felt like I had a real understanding of where everyone was coming from. Even Nishta’s husband Iqbal, held a place in my heart. His world has come crashing down around him, and he didn’t know how to cope. He honestly thought he was doing what was best for his family. Each character was easily to distinguish. This was my first Thrity Umrigar book, and it will not be my last. In case you’re not sure, I highly recommend this book. A perfect read for book club discussions.