Book Review: The World We Found – Thrity Umrigar

Title: The World We Found
Author: Thrity Umrigar
ISBN: 9780061938344
Pages: 320
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction (South Asia) Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:

In college, Laleh, Kavita, Nishta, and Armaiti were the closest of friends.  They were young and idealistic, sharing political views and supporting each other in the knowledge that as individuals, they could change the world.  Thirty years later, they have each settled into their own lives; Laleh is married to her college sweetheart Adish, while Kavita hides the fact that she is a lesbian from those closest to her.  Nishta has disappeared from the group of friends with her Muslim husband Iqbal.  But when Armaiti calls from the United States with the news that she has a brain tumor, the friends must come together once again, for the last time.

Review:

The World We Found is a beautiful novel full of lingering hope and the despair of facing what life has become.  When these women were in college, they lifted each other up when their country was trying to tear them down.  They were closer than friends, perhaps even closer than family – they were comrades.  Through the prism of these four women, Umrigar examines the complicated nature of female friendships.  Despite everything they experienced, each still held something back from the others.  It’s an amazingly nuanced and realistic portrayal of how women’s friendships work, and the loss and loneliness that results in not being able to fully share yourself with those closest to you.

One of the main themes running through The World We Found is that of religion.  After Nishta married Iqbal, she disappeared into Muslim society, though she was originally Hindu.  When Kavita and Laleh go looking for her, they are shocked at what they find; over the years, Iqbal has transformed from the genial man they knew into a cold and unyielding person who places his religion above all else and rigidly controls his wife’s actions.  He could easily have been made a caricature of a fundamentalist Muslim, yet Umrigar doesn’t let the reader judge that easily.  She takes the reader into Iqbal’s head and makes the reader see the horrible things he’s experienced and the small solace he finds in his religion.  Just as many have judged all Muslims to be a certain way, Iqbal does the same of Hindus, assuming they disdain and disrespect him.  It’s incredibly interesting to see stereotypes turned on their heads and is very thought provoking.

Umrigar gives each of these women – Nishta, Kavita, Armaiti, and Laleh – their own distinct personalities and voices.  There are multiple narrators in this novel, and it could have easily become confusing, discerning who is telling the story at any given point.  Yet Umrigar took such care with her characters, giving each of them a memorable personality, whether vibrant and brash like Laleh’s or subdued and repressed like Nishta’s, such that it’s easy to tell them apart.  Umrigar thrusts the reader into these women’s heads as she reveals their deepest thoughts; they become friends, rather than mere characters on a page. 

The World We Found also delves into turbulent periods of Indian history; the social and political unrest of the 1970s, as well as the Hindu-Muslim riots of the early ‘90s.  The reader really gets a sense of the uncertainty of these time periods, especially through Iqbal’s eyes.  While what he experiences could drive a person to the deepest depths of despair, the novel is never despondent.  It deals with difficult issues, harsh realities of life, but it is not depressing or heavy.  It is ultimately a beautiful, uplifting novel that tells us that even in the darkest times, there is always the light of friendship and love.

This is one of those books that could be discussed for days, as readers dissect the characters, situations, and issues presented within it.  I’ve only scratched the surface with this review.  As a result, it would make an excellent book club pick.  Fans of Thrity’s shouldn’t hesitate to pick this book up, but it has such broad appeal that I would recommend it to almost anyone.  Whether you’re a fan of novels about women’s friendships, cultural fiction, current events, difficult religious issues, or are just looking a book that has unfathomable depths along with a lot of heart, I can’t recommend The World We Found highly enough.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the review, this sounds like a great book.

  2. Thanks for the review, this sounds like a great book.

  3. I have a copy of this book in my book closet. You make me want to run right in there and find it. Definitely putting this one on my list to read soon.

  4. I have a copy of this book in my book closet. You make me want to run right in there and find it. Definitely putting this one on my list to read soon.

  5. I believe I got a copy of this at SIBA. I have yet to read one of her books, but forever I have wanted to make it a project. I will make a point of pulling this off the shelf SOON!!!

  6. I believe I got a copy of this at SIBA. I have yet to read one of her books, but forever I have wanted to make it a project. I will make a point of pulling this off the shelf SOON!!!

  7. Wonderful review, Swapna! I simply MUST read this book. It’s going at the top of my list right now.

    Happy New Year!

  8. Wonderful review, Swapna! I simply MUST read this book. It’s going at the top of my list right now.

    Happy New Year!

  9. Elizabeth Bass says:

    This looks like the kind of book I’ve been craving. Just downloaded a Kindle sample. Might be my first book purchase of the new year!

  10. Elizabeth Bass says:

    This looks like the kind of book I’ve been craving. Just downloaded a Kindle sample. Might be my first book purchase of the new year!

  11. I can’t wait to read this book!!

  12. I can’t wait to read this book!!

  13. I love Umrigar, and can’t wait to read this book! I love tales that are emotional and nuanced, and this one sounds like it’s going to be a crazy good read for me! Thanks for the awesome review!

  14. I love Umrigar, and can’t wait to read this book! I love tales that are emotional and nuanced, and this one sounds like it’s going to be a crazy good read for me! Thanks for the awesome review!

  15. Such a great review for such a wonderful book. I read this just last week and could not put it down. You’re right about there being so much to discuss, especially in regards to Iqbal and Nishta. Can’t wait to read more titles by Umrigar.

  16. Such a great review for such a wonderful book. I read this just last week and could not put it down. You’re right about there being so much to discuss, especially in regards to Iqbal and Nishta. Can’t wait to read more titles by Umrigar.

  17. Ooh, I’m glad you liked it! I just received a review copy, so I’ll bump it to the top of my list!

  18. Ooh, I’m glad you liked it! I just received a review copy, so I’ll bump it to the top of my list!

  19. I’m halfway through and am loving it. I’m looking forward to the book discussion.

  20. I’m halfway through and am loving it. I’m looking forward to the book discussion.

  21. This sounds amazing and multi-layered and rich… I can’t wait to read it!

  22. This sounds amazing and multi-layered and rich… I can’t wait to read it!

  23. This one has been on my wish list for a while (since people started getting ARC’s of it in their mailbox) so I will definitely have to buy it now that it is out! Looking forward to following your upcoming discussion.

  24. This one has been on my wish list for a while (since people started getting ARC’s of it in their mailbox) so I will definitely have to buy it now that it is out! Looking forward to following your upcoming discussion.

  25. I picked up Umrigar’s books after reading your reviews and I am definitely going to read this one..

  26. I picked up Umrigar’s books after reading your reviews and I am definitely going to read this one..

  27. After meaning to read Thrity for years based on your recommendations, I finally read this one and really liked it. I’m excited to work through her backlist now too and am looking forward to discussing it too!

  28. After meaning to read Thrity for years based on your recommendations, I finally read this one and really liked it. I’m excited to work through her backlist now too and am looking forward to discussing it too!

  29. I love Umrigar’s books. I really hope to get to this one within the next few months.

  30. I love Umrigar’s books. I really hope to get to this one within the next few months.

  31. Just got ths one from the library, glad to see its one of your favorites!

  32. Just got ths one from the library, glad to see its one of your favorites!

  33. Incredible review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this novel. I’ve enjoyed reading it as well.

  34. Incredible review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this novel. I’ve enjoyed reading it as well.

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