The World We Found Discussion – Characters and Marriage

Welcome to the readalong and book club discussion of The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar.  Today we are discussing characters and their marriages, as presented in chapters 1 through 9 (pp. 1-91) of the novel.  If you have insights to share, but they are based on events that occur later in the book, please note that as the beginning of your comment by typing SPOILER so those who haven’t read on will know to skip your comment.

In The World We Found , the reader is introduced to many different characters in the first one hundred pages – the original four friends, Armaiti, Kavita, Laleh, and Nishta, and three of their husbands, Richard, Adish, and Iqbal.

  1. What do you think of these characters?  Does anyone especially appeal to you, or alternatively, turn you off?
  2. We see three very different marriages in Laleh and Adish, Nishta and Iqbal, and Armaiti and Richard.  Why do you think Umrigar chose to represent such different dynamics in each of these couples?
  3. Why wasn’t Armaiti able to forgive Richard for his affair?  Was it because he betrayed her or because he couldn’t explain it to her?  Why is it important?
  4. Why is Laleh so hostile towards Adish’s work colleagues?  Does she see something in them that bothers her in herself?  Why?
  5. Nishta says, “It’s just that seeing both of you is reminding me of the gap between my life as it is and what I’d dreamed it would be” upon seeing Laleh and Kavita again.  What does this say about Nishta’s life with Iqbal?
  6. Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living?  Is it respect, pity, or something else entirely?

Please feel free to answer any or all of these questions in your comments, as well as expound on your thoughts about the characters and their marriages.  If you’re new to this readalong and would like more information, please visit my landing page for The World We Found discussion.  Please be sure to check back on Thursday, when we’ll be discussing friendships in the first nine chapters of the book.

Comments

  1. Can’t wait to see what everyone else things, but here are my thoughts:

    1. What do you think of these characters? Does anyone especially appeal to you, or alternatively, turn you off?

    I was immediately drawn to Armaiti. Not only out of sympathy for her diagnosis, but also for her need to control the aftermath, especially her decision to forego treatment. She felt so brave, honest, flawed, and deeply human.

    I was a bit put off by Laleh which I wasn’t able to verbally express until the end of the novel – but she felt very out-of-place in her own skin, like she was hiding something that made me nervous.

    2. We see three very different marriages in Laleh and Adish, Nishta and Iqbal, and Armaiti and Richard. Why do you think Umrigar chose to represent such different dynamics in each of these couples?

    What interested me most was that three women who had so much in common in college could end up at such different places in life – symbolized by their drastically different marriages. I think Umrigar wants to draw our attention to the changes that have occurred over the many years since they left college – particularly at how men and women change each other and how a certain level of co-dependency can alter the people we are.

    3. Why wasn’t Armaiti able to forgive Richard for his affair? Was it because he betrayed her or because he couldn’t explain it to her? Why is it important?

    Without a doubt, I think what bothered Armaiti most was that he couldn’t explain it. She’s left to wonder forever at the reasons. She’s could ponder endlessly over a million reasons to blame herself and never feel assured that he wouldn’t do it again because she had no idea the root cause to begin with. To me, Armaiti needs to feel in control of her life, even in control of the people in her life, and Richard’s affair broke that sense of power Armaiti needed to have.

    4. Why is Laleh so hostile towards Adish’s work colleagues? Does she see something in them that bothers her in herself? Why?

    This party scene was one of the moments that made me feel uneasy about Laleh. She definitely sees something in them that bothers her in herself. In college, she lived by this ideology of human equality and now she lives a life of wealth and comfort which doesn’t align with the beliefs she fought so passionately for in the past. She carries a lot of guilt around and projects her feelings onto Adish and his colleagues/clients.

    5. Nishta says, “It’s just that seeing both of you is reminding me of the gap between my life as it is and what I’d dreamed it would be” upon seeing Laleh and Kavita again. What does this say about Nishta’s life with Iqbal?

    Nishta has obviously ended up in a life she never wanted, led by a man she loved and trusted. Nishta feels trapped and imprisoned and yet loyal, in a way, to her husband.

    6. Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living? Is it respect, pity, or something else entirely?

    In many ways, I think Adish wants to blind himself to the realities of Nishta and Iqbal’s marriage, and perhaps escape feeling guilty and complicit – not only in Nishta’s misery, but Iqbal’s as well. After all, he and Iqbal were co-conspirators in college as they fought desperately to earn the affection of Laleh and Nishta, respectively. I also think that Adish knows what it’s like to deeply and passionately love his wife and to fear losing her – he doesn’t want to cause any man that pain.

  2. Can’t wait to see what everyone else things, but here are my thoughts:

    1. What do you think of these characters? Does anyone especially appeal to you, or alternatively, turn you off?

    I was immediately drawn to Armaiti. Not only out of sympathy for her diagnosis, but also for her need to control the aftermath, especially her decision to forego treatment. She felt so brave, honest, flawed, and deeply human.

    I was a bit put off by Laleh which I wasn’t able to verbally express until the end of the novel – but she felt very out-of-place in her own skin, like she was hiding something that made me nervous.

    2. We see three very different marriages in Laleh and Adish, Nishta and Iqbal, and Armaiti and Richard. Why do you think Umrigar chose to represent such different dynamics in each of these couples?

    What interested me most was that three women who had so much in common in college could end up at such different places in life – symbolized by their drastically different marriages. I think Umrigar wants to draw our attention to the changes that have occurred over the many years since they left college – particularly at how men and women change each other and how a certain level of co-dependency can alter the people we are.

    3. Why wasn’t Armaiti able to forgive Richard for his affair? Was it because he betrayed her or because he couldn’t explain it to her? Why is it important?

    Without a doubt, I think what bothered Armaiti most was that he couldn’t explain it. She’s left to wonder forever at the reasons. She’s could ponder endlessly over a million reasons to blame herself and never feel assured that he wouldn’t do it again because she had no idea the root cause to begin with. To me, Armaiti needs to feel in control of her life, even in control of the people in her life, and Richard’s affair broke that sense of power Armaiti needed to have.

    4. Why is Laleh so hostile towards Adish’s work colleagues? Does she see something in them that bothers her in herself? Why?

    This party scene was one of the moments that made me feel uneasy about Laleh. She definitely sees something in them that bothers her in herself. In college, she lived by this ideology of human equality and now she lives a life of wealth and comfort which doesn’t align with the beliefs she fought so passionately for in the past. She carries a lot of guilt around and projects her feelings onto Adish and his colleagues/clients.

    5. Nishta says, “It’s just that seeing both of you is reminding me of the gap between my life as it is and what I’d dreamed it would be” upon seeing Laleh and Kavita again. What does this say about Nishta’s life with Iqbal?

    Nishta has obviously ended up in a life she never wanted, led by a man she loved and trusted. Nishta feels trapped and imprisoned and yet loyal, in a way, to her husband.

    6. Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living? Is it respect, pity, or something else entirely?

    In many ways, I think Adish wants to blind himself to the realities of Nishta and Iqbal’s marriage, and perhaps escape feeling guilty and complicit – not only in Nishta’s misery, but Iqbal’s as well. After all, he and Iqbal were co-conspirators in college as they fought desperately to earn the affection of Laleh and Nishta, respectively. I also think that Adish knows what it’s like to deeply and passionately love his wife and to fear losing her – he doesn’t want to cause any man that pain.

  3. What do you think of these characters? Does anyone especially appeal to you, or alternatively, turn you off?

    I immediately liked all the four core female characters. They each were wonderfully drawn, incredibly vibrant, but unique. It made me a bit wistful that I haven’t had lasting friendships like theirs (even if they have changed and grown apart during the years).

    Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living? Is it respect, pity, or something else entirely?

    I think it’s a combination of many things. It’s almost like he’s showing Lelah that he also feels ties to their past, that he was once allied with Iqbal and is now trying to be loyal to him. If Lelah is willing to drop everything and fly halfway around the world for a college friend, surely her can stick up for a friend home in India.

    I also think there might be a hint of jealously (I don’t know if that’s the right emotion, but I can’t think of another that would be appropriate). Adish has given his wife every material comfort that he can, and yet it seems nothing makes her truly happy, or makes her completely respect him. Iqbal may live in a hovel and work a crappy job, but his wife is obedient. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but that’s what I picked up on while reading.

  4. What do you think of these characters? Does anyone especially appeal to you, or alternatively, turn you off?

    I immediately liked all the four core female characters. They each were wonderfully drawn, incredibly vibrant, but unique. It made me a bit wistful that I haven’t had lasting friendships like theirs (even if they have changed and grown apart during the years).

    Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living? Is it respect, pity, or something else entirely?

    I think it’s a combination of many things. It’s almost like he’s showing Lelah that he also feels ties to their past, that he was once allied with Iqbal and is now trying to be loyal to him. If Lelah is willing to drop everything and fly halfway around the world for a college friend, surely her can stick up for a friend home in India.

    I also think there might be a hint of jealously (I don’t know if that’s the right emotion, but I can’t think of another that would be appropriate). Adish has given his wife every material comfort that he can, and yet it seems nothing makes her truly happy, or makes her completely respect him. Iqbal may live in a hovel and work a crappy job, but his wife is obedient. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but that’s what I picked up on while reading.

  5. (continued from above)

    5) Nishta says, “It’s just that seeing both of you is reminding me of the gap between my life as it is and what I’d dreamed it would be” upon seeing Laleh and Kavita again. What does this say about Nishta’s life with Iqbal?

    Nishta couldn’t have known that Iqbal would react the way he did to the religious hate that neither of them expected to erupt (at least not in the way it did). Nishta may actually be the least sympathetic character to me. I’m sure she didn’t feel like she had any options after her parents disowned her, and I’m sure that none of her choices to follow Iqbal down the path of fear seemed so unambiguous as they do in hindsight, but… Her choices frustrate me probably as much as Iqbal’s.

    6) Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living? Is it respect, pity, or something else entirely?

    I’m not sure it’s either respect or pity. Or rather, there’s probably a dash of both but I don’t think that’s the main thing going on. I think he may feel reluctance because of fear, too. Fear of complications and repercussions. Adish has made choices that led to an easier life and he has altered his thinking to make that okay. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, by the way. It’s certainly a little less hypocritical than Laleh, who has made many of the same choices but hasn’t altered her thinking. When you’ve been choosing ease (to some degree) for 25 years, it would have to take a big push to get rid of that inertia.

    Like Brooke said, I also think there’s a degree of… Like, if he saw Nishta, if he met with her in her home like Laleh and Kalita, it would be a lot harder for him to walk away. I think he knows that. It’s like that demonstration so long ago when he suspects that Laleh half-knew he was lying to get her away. He loved her more for that choice, she hates that she made it. I think that dichotomy is super representative of what’s going on with both of them, of the choices they made over the last quarter century, and how they feel about those choices.

  6. (continued from above)

    5) Nishta says, “It’s just that seeing both of you is reminding me of the gap between my life as it is and what I’d dreamed it would be” upon seeing Laleh and Kavita again. What does this say about Nishta’s life with Iqbal?

    Nishta couldn’t have known that Iqbal would react the way he did to the religious hate that neither of them expected to erupt (at least not in the way it did). Nishta may actually be the least sympathetic character to me. I’m sure she didn’t feel like she had any options after her parents disowned her, and I’m sure that none of her choices to follow Iqbal down the path of fear seemed so unambiguous as they do in hindsight, but… Her choices frustrate me probably as much as Iqbal’s.

    6) Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living? Is it respect, pity, or something else entirely?

    I’m not sure it’s either respect or pity. Or rather, there’s probably a dash of both but I don’t think that’s the main thing going on. I think he may feel reluctance because of fear, too. Fear of complications and repercussions. Adish has made choices that led to an easier life and he has altered his thinking to make that okay. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, by the way. It’s certainly a little less hypocritical than Laleh, who has made many of the same choices but hasn’t altered her thinking. When you’ve been choosing ease (to some degree) for 25 years, it would have to take a big push to get rid of that inertia.

    Like Brooke said, I also think there’s a degree of… Like, if he saw Nishta, if he met with her in her home like Laleh and Kalita, it would be a lot harder for him to walk away. I think he knows that. It’s like that demonstration so long ago when he suspects that Laleh half-knew he was lying to get her away. He loved her more for that choice, she hates that she made it. I think that dichotomy is super representative of what’s going on with both of them, of the choices they made over the last quarter century, and how they feel about those choices.

  7. Thanks for hosting this discussion! My book club is reading this book in Feb, can’t wait to discuss it with them.

    After reading the comments of the others reading along, we all have similar views at this point in the novel. Here are my ‘short’ answers.

    1. I feel like I’m still getting to know the characters. It will be interesting to see how/if my opinion changes as the book goes on, but I’m enjoying Laleh’s bluntness and can’t wait to learn more about Armaiti. Since my mom died from Cancer taking over her brain last February, I curious about the no fight storyline.

    2. The simple answer for me is conflict. This allows the reader to explore different marriages and how friendships can remain strong when women are so different. These women were so close in college that it’s hard to believe the connection can remain years later after their lives go in different directions. This is an interesting book, while I finished chapter 10 last night I thought it was interesting to note that everyone has a voice in this book (the husbands and wives).

    3. Armaiti doesn’t have the closure she needs to move on. She has accepted that the affair happened (since she stayed with Richard) but this doesn’t mean she has found peace with it. I would want an explanation too, and by not getting one… I don’t know if I could be as accepting. I’m curious to see how the affair impacts the story.

    4. Laleh might be upset at herself for the woman she’s become. She’s so different that her college self. She also carries and great amount of guilt, for leaving the protest early. It seems like a pivotal moment in her life, paralyzing her.

    5. Nishta’s story is a sad one. Right now I feel like she’s trapped, in a committed marriage but not one filled with love. I hope we get to watch her have some personal growth as the story continues.

    6. Respect, pity… these are good words. Not playing an active role in someone’s lives for so many years plays into this reluctance. We learned that the 93 riots were the trigger for Iqbal’s conversion; this is the marriage I’m intrigued by at this point in the book. I expect to learn more about their religion and culture.

  8. Thanks for hosting this discussion! My book club is reading this book in Feb, can’t wait to discuss it with them.

    After reading the comments of the others reading along, we all have similar views at this point in the novel. Here are my ‘short’ answers.

    1. I feel like I’m still getting to know the characters. It will be interesting to see how/if my opinion changes as the book goes on, but I’m enjoying Laleh’s bluntness and can’t wait to learn more about Armaiti. Since my mom died from Cancer taking over her brain last February, I curious about the no fight storyline.

    2. The simple answer for me is conflict. This allows the reader to explore different marriages and how friendships can remain strong when women are so different. These women were so close in college that it’s hard to believe the connection can remain years later after their lives go in different directions. This is an interesting book, while I finished chapter 10 last night I thought it was interesting to note that everyone has a voice in this book (the husbands and wives).

    3. Armaiti doesn’t have the closure she needs to move on. She has accepted that the affair happened (since she stayed with Richard) but this doesn’t mean she has found peace with it. I would want an explanation too, and by not getting one… I don’t know if I could be as accepting. I’m curious to see how the affair impacts the story.

    4. Laleh might be upset at herself for the woman she’s become. She’s so different that her college self. She also carries and great amount of guilt, for leaving the protest early. It seems like a pivotal moment in her life, paralyzing her.

    5. Nishta’s story is a sad one. Right now I feel like she’s trapped, in a committed marriage but not one filled with love. I hope we get to watch her have some personal growth as the story continues.

    6. Respect, pity… these are good words. Not playing an active role in someone’s lives for so many years plays into this reluctance. We learned that the 93 riots were the trigger for Iqbal’s conversion; this is the marriage I’m intrigued by at this point in the book. I expect to learn more about their religion and culture.

  9. Brooke – I completely agree with you about Laleh. She made me uncomfortable. You put it so well – “she felt out-of-place in her own skin”.

    I didn’t think about Adish feeling guilty about Iqbal’s situation because they were brothers-in-arms in college, but you are right!! Good point.

    MJ – Your thoughts on the Adish-Iqbal relationship are very interesting. It’s so true that Adish can’t seem to keep Laleh happy or content. While Nishta is certainly not happy, she keeps her unhappiness inside and is quiet. I can see some sort of twisted appeal for Adish.

    Nisabebepraised – I found Nishta to be an incredibly sympathetic character, so I think it’s so interesting she was the least sympathetic to you! I do understand what you are saying about her though – it’s frustrated when women are a doormat and won’t stand up for themselves.

    And I agree with you and Brooke about Adish – it’s easy for him to walk away from Nishta because he didn’t actually see her with his own eyes.

    Mari –

    You point out that all characters (husbands and wives) have a voice in this book. It’s something rare in a book, and I feel like it fleshes out all the characters so much better.

    I agree with you about Nishta and Iqbal as well. Their marriage was the one that intrigued me most over the story.

  10. Brooke – I completely agree with you about Laleh. She made me uncomfortable. You put it so well – “she felt out-of-place in her own skin”.

    I didn’t think about Adish feeling guilty about Iqbal’s situation because they were brothers-in-arms in college, but you are right!! Good point.

    MJ – Your thoughts on the Adish-Iqbal relationship are very interesting. It’s so true that Adish can’t seem to keep Laleh happy or content. While Nishta is certainly not happy, she keeps her unhappiness inside and is quiet. I can see some sort of twisted appeal for Adish.

    Nisabebepraised – I found Nishta to be an incredibly sympathetic character, so I think it’s so interesting she was the least sympathetic to you! I do understand what you are saying about her though – it’s frustrated when women are a doormat and won’t stand up for themselves.

    And I agree with you and Brooke about Adish – it’s easy for him to walk away from Nishta because he didn’t actually see her with his own eyes.

    Mari –

    You point out that all characters (husbands and wives) have a voice in this book. It’s something rare in a book, and I feel like it fleshes out all the characters so much better.

    I agree with you about Nishta and Iqbal as well. Their marriage was the one that intrigued me most over the story.

  11. Thanks for sparking this series of discussion! I have to agree with most of the previous comments.

    In particular, some of my thoughts on the questions are:

    1. I actually felt Kavita’s character was not as developed as the other three friends. The most sympathetic and well drawn characters were Nishta and Iqbal – they were complex and realistically portrayed. Laleh was my least favorite – she came across as incredibly pampered, and constantly dissatisfied with herself and everyone around her that I felt sorry for Adish.

    3. Armaiti’s decision to divorce/not forgive Richard puzzled me quite a bit, because their relationship post-divorce was so unusually warm and beautiful! Perhaps Richard’s betrayal reminded Armaiti of her own “betrayal” of her home country, especially when she promised and envisaged so much for it. And Richard’s betrayal crushed the idealism of the alternative life she had chosen and built for herself in the US. Her inability to forgive Richard possibly reflects her own guilt and struggle to forgive herself for choosing to build a different world/life which eventually turned out far from perfect. This is a common thread with all the characters – reconciling to the bitter realities of how their lives had shaped.

    6. Adish’s reluctance to meddle in Iqbal’s life is primarily due to respect and regard for Iqbal, and for what he has gone through. I think Adish doesn’t feel justified or qualified to “correct” Iqbal or Nishta’s life because he is probably aware that he would totally crumble and make similar decisions if he had been in Iqbal’s shoes. He realizes that it’s easier to criticize and preach from his fortunate position. Also, understanding Iqbal’s many losses and blows to his self-esteem, he feels it’s unfair to bring about more pain to him by distancing Nishta from him – his moral conscience as a friend is troubled. But underneath all of this, it’s also fear – fear of how his comfortable life would change if he were to face Iqbal’s wrath. The contrasts of good-will and selfishness in Adish is convincingly developed.

  12. Thanks for sparking this series of discussion! I have to agree with most of the previous comments.

    In particular, some of my thoughts on the questions are:

    1. I actually felt Kavita’s character was not as developed as the other three friends. The most sympathetic and well drawn characters were Nishta and Iqbal – they were complex and realistically portrayed. Laleh was my least favorite – she came across as incredibly pampered, and constantly dissatisfied with herself and everyone around her that I felt sorry for Adish.

    3. Armaiti’s decision to divorce/not forgive Richard puzzled me quite a bit, because their relationship post-divorce was so unusually warm and beautiful! Perhaps Richard’s betrayal reminded Armaiti of her own “betrayal” of her home country, especially when she promised and envisaged so much for it. And Richard’s betrayal crushed the idealism of the alternative life she had chosen and built for herself in the US. Her inability to forgive Richard possibly reflects her own guilt and struggle to forgive herself for choosing to build a different world/life which eventually turned out far from perfect. This is a common thread with all the characters – reconciling to the bitter realities of how their lives had shaped.

    6. Adish’s reluctance to meddle in Iqbal’s life is primarily due to respect and regard for Iqbal, and for what he has gone through. I think Adish doesn’t feel justified or qualified to “correct” Iqbal or Nishta’s life because he is probably aware that he would totally crumble and make similar decisions if he had been in Iqbal’s shoes. He realizes that it’s easier to criticize and preach from his fortunate position. Also, understanding Iqbal’s many losses and blows to his self-esteem, he feels it’s unfair to bring about more pain to him by distancing Nishta from him – his moral conscience as a friend is troubled. But underneath all of this, it’s also fear – fear of how his comfortable life would change if he were to face Iqbal’s wrath. The contrasts of good-will and selfishness in Adish is convincingly developed.

  13. What do you think of these characters? Does anyone especially appeal to you, or alternatively, turn you off?
    I think I felt drawn to Nishta, because you can see from the beginning that her journey will be greatest. I liked each of the other characters, but sometimes had to differentiate between Laleh and Kavitah when their significant others were not in the picture.

    We see three very different marriages in Laleh and Adish, Nishta and Iqbal, and Armaiti and Richard. Why do you think Umrigar chose to represent such different dynamics in each of these couples?
    I think it is realistic to life. Even when friends are close, their relationships and eventual marriages are very different in dynamics. It makes for a more interesting story too, of course!

    Why wasn’t Armaiti able to forgive Richard for his affair? Was it because he betrayed her or because he couldn’t explain it to her? Why is it important?
    I felt confused about their relationship. It seems really secure at this point. I wonder if this is a huge change from their separation. It seems at times as if this choice was made in order to show another kind of relationship, since we already had a heterosexual couple in a committed relationship in Laleh and Adish.

    Nishta says, “It’s just that seeing both of you is reminding me of the gap between my life as it is and what I’d dreamed it would be” upon seeing Laleh and Kavita again. What does this say about Nishta’s life with Iqbal?
    I think you can tell from the offset that Nishta’s life is nothing like she anticipated. I don’t want to say anything more, because I’ve read the rest!

    Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living? Is it respect, pity, or something else entirely?
    I think it’s both respect for a friendship that used to be, as well as a respect for another man. I think men are very hesitant to get involved in other relationships. It’s the feeling that if it’s not their business, they shouldn’t get involved. Interfering with another man’s wife is certainly getting involved.

  14. What do you think of these characters? Does anyone especially appeal to you, or alternatively, turn you off?
    I think I felt drawn to Nishta, because you can see from the beginning that her journey will be greatest. I liked each of the other characters, but sometimes had to differentiate between Laleh and Kavitah when their significant others were not in the picture.

    We see three very different marriages in Laleh and Adish, Nishta and Iqbal, and Armaiti and Richard. Why do you think Umrigar chose to represent such different dynamics in each of these couples?
    I think it is realistic to life. Even when friends are close, their relationships and eventual marriages are very different in dynamics. It makes for a more interesting story too, of course!

    Why wasn’t Armaiti able to forgive Richard for his affair? Was it because he betrayed her or because he couldn’t explain it to her? Why is it important?
    I felt confused about their relationship. It seems really secure at this point. I wonder if this is a huge change from their separation. It seems at times as if this choice was made in order to show another kind of relationship, since we already had a heterosexual couple in a committed relationship in Laleh and Adish.

    Nishta says, “It’s just that seeing both of you is reminding me of the gap between my life as it is and what I’d dreamed it would be” upon seeing Laleh and Kavita again. What does this say about Nishta’s life with Iqbal?
    I think you can tell from the offset that Nishta’s life is nothing like she anticipated. I don’t want to say anything more, because I’ve read the rest!

    Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living? Is it respect, pity, or something else entirely?
    I think it’s both respect for a friendship that used to be, as well as a respect for another man. I think men are very hesitant to get involved in other relationships. It’s the feeling that if it’s not their business, they shouldn’t get involved. Interfering with another man’s wife is certainly getting involved.

  15. 1. What do you think of these characters? Does anyone especially appeal to you, or alternatively, turn you off?

    I love Umrigar’s characters. They’re complex, diverse and real. Laleh is the character I’m most drawn to. She is a strong, principled character, but she lives with the conflict between who she thought she’d be and who she really is. The brilliance of Umrigar’s writing is how she captures the extended result of Laleh’s guilt, anger and complicity in missing the rally. The tragedy of Laleh is how she continues to suffer with this internal struggle and dissatisfaction. The “truth” of Laleh is evident in her life. She has maintained a friendship with Kavita, she has a good marriage and healthy children, she is the first person Armaiti calls, and she actively tries to reach Nishta by sending Adish to talk with Iqbal. I admire her strength, and I’m deeply touched by her struggle; but so far, she’s not able to resolve her conflict because it would require a humility and vulnerability that is very difficult for Laleh.

    2. We see three very different marriages in Laleh and Adish, Nishta and Iqbal, and Armaiti and Richard. Why do you think Umrigar chose to represent such different dynamics in each of these couples?

    I think it speaks to the realism that Umrigar brings to her story. Every marriage is unique, and Umrigar captures this. I also think it points to the diversity, uniqueness and tension that pervades all relationships, marriage or otherwise.

    3. Why wasn’t Armaiti able to forgive Richard for his affair? Was it because he betrayed her or because he couldn’t explain it to her? Why is it important?

    I believe it was because he couldn’t explain it to her. Armaiti values control, so to do something that you couldn’t explain most likely represented a lack of control that was beyond Armaiti comprehension and would be very frightening to her. I think it’s important because it prepares us for Armaiti’s decision not to seek treatment for her cancer.

    4. Why is Laleh so hostile towards Adish’s work colleagues? Does she see something in them that bothers her in herself? Why?

    I think Laleh is hostile towards Adish’s work colleagues for that exact reason. She feels that her principles and values are “purer,” but she also know that she lives in the same world and social class that they do.

    5. Nishta says, “It’s just that seeing both of you is reminding me of the gap between my life as it is and what I’d dreamed it would be” upon seeing Laleh and Kavita again. What does this say about Nishta’s life with Iqbal.

    I think Nishta’s life with Iqbal is unsatisfactory, but that it happened slowly, so she didn’t notice it until she was forced to see and remember who she and Iqbal used to be and how far they had drifted from themselves and each other.

    6. Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living? Is it respect, pity or something else entirely?

    I believe a man’s #1 priority in life is “respect,” and I don’t think Adish would disrespect Iqbal unless it was completely necessary. Even though it was primarily Adish’s memory of his friendship with Iqbal, Iqbal is still important to Adish; so I don’t think Adish would have been capable of pushing Iqbal beyond what he did.

  16. 1. What do you think of these characters? Does anyone especially appeal to you, or alternatively, turn you off?

    I love Umrigar’s characters. They’re complex, diverse and real. Laleh is the character I’m most drawn to. She is a strong, principled character, but she lives with the conflict between who she thought she’d be and who she really is. The brilliance of Umrigar’s writing is how she captures the extended result of Laleh’s guilt, anger and complicity in missing the rally. The tragedy of Laleh is how she continues to suffer with this internal struggle and dissatisfaction. The “truth” of Laleh is evident in her life. She has maintained a friendship with Kavita, she has a good marriage and healthy children, she is the first person Armaiti calls, and she actively tries to reach Nishta by sending Adish to talk with Iqbal. I admire her strength, and I’m deeply touched by her struggle; but so far, she’s not able to resolve her conflict because it would require a humility and vulnerability that is very difficult for Laleh.

    2. We see three very different marriages in Laleh and Adish, Nishta and Iqbal, and Armaiti and Richard. Why do you think Umrigar chose to represent such different dynamics in each of these couples?

    I think it speaks to the realism that Umrigar brings to her story. Every marriage is unique, and Umrigar captures this. I also think it points to the diversity, uniqueness and tension that pervades all relationships, marriage or otherwise.

    3. Why wasn’t Armaiti able to forgive Richard for his affair? Was it because he betrayed her or because he couldn’t explain it to her? Why is it important?

    I believe it was because he couldn’t explain it to her. Armaiti values control, so to do something that you couldn’t explain most likely represented a lack of control that was beyond Armaiti comprehension and would be very frightening to her. I think it’s important because it prepares us for Armaiti’s decision not to seek treatment for her cancer.

    4. Why is Laleh so hostile towards Adish’s work colleagues? Does she see something in them that bothers her in herself? Why?

    I think Laleh is hostile towards Adish’s work colleagues for that exact reason. She feels that her principles and values are “purer,” but she also know that she lives in the same world and social class that they do.

    5. Nishta says, “It’s just that seeing both of you is reminding me of the gap between my life as it is and what I’d dreamed it would be” upon seeing Laleh and Kavita again. What does this say about Nishta’s life with Iqbal.

    I think Nishta’s life with Iqbal is unsatisfactory, but that it happened slowly, so she didn’t notice it until she was forced to see and remember who she and Iqbal used to be and how far they had drifted from themselves and each other.

    6. Why does Adish feel so reluctant to meddle in Iqbal’s marriage, knowing the life that Nishta is living? Is it respect, pity or something else entirely?

    I believe a man’s #1 priority in life is “respect,” and I don’t think Adish would disrespect Iqbal unless it was completely necessary. Even though it was primarily Adish’s memory of his friendship with Iqbal, Iqbal is still important to Adish; so I don’t think Adish would have been capable of pushing Iqbal beyond what he did.

  17. Neeraja – It never occurred to me that Armaiti’s inability to forgive Richard was connected to her own guilt about her past, but you are so right. Each of these women is struggling to reconcile their past selves with their present selves, and I can completely see that this is Armaiti’s struggle.

    Lindsey – It is really hard to talk about Nishta, having read the entire book and knowing her situation, isn’t it? But I agree with you.

    What Remains Now – I am so glad you said that Laleh was your favorite character! We’ve had a lot of negative reactions to her in this discussion so far, so I’m thrilled to see a different point of view.

  18. Neeraja – It never occurred to me that Armaiti’s inability to forgive Richard was connected to her own guilt about her past, but you are so right. Each of these women is struggling to reconcile their past selves with their present selves, and I can completely see that this is Armaiti’s struggle.

    Lindsey – It is really hard to talk about Nishta, having read the entire book and knowing her situation, isn’t it? But I agree with you.

    What Remains Now – I am so glad you said that Laleh was your favorite character! We’ve had a lot of negative reactions to her in this discussion so far, so I’m thrilled to see a different point of view.

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