There are so many wonderful writers out there that it was difficult narrowing my list down to 10. In fact, that is the reason I didn't make it 5...there are just to many to choose from! I'm still preparing the third post for my "official" list, but in the meantime I wanted to share my thoughts on another author that I love...Thrity Umrigar, author of The Space Between Us.
I tend to be a creature of habit so I probably would not have discovered this book if it hadn't been required reading for my Women's Lit. class and I suppose that is part of the reason I feel the need to spread the word about it - to bring others attention to something they may not typically look for or pick up.
Set in Bombay, The Space Between Us is about the lives of two women: Sera Dubash (a wealthy housewife) and Bhima (the Dubash's housekeeper who lives in the slums). The book alternates between the two women, revealing their individual stories and the unfortunate truth that while we are all connected by our experiences in life we still allow ourselves to be separated by class and culture.
As Umrigar puts it, "It is impossible to have two human beings work and live in a contained domestic space all day long and not form some kind of bond or human connection," but "there is always the elephant in the room, and that elephant, of course, is class. There is always a formality, a ritualized 'space' that can never quite be bridged."
There is a clear message here that life does not care about our social status or outward appearances, underneath it all we are the same - we all experience love, loss, joy and pain. However, it isn't a forced message and it certainly isn't a sugar coated one.
That is exactly what I love about this book, the realism. There is a parallel between their fictional experiences and your own reality. It's a type of realism that hits so close to home and feels so true that it stirs you emotionally and becomes comforting because you realize you are not alone. You care about these characters because they could be you.
On the surface, this book is about two women in India, but at its core it is about people and how the only true differences between us are the ones we choose to create.