The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

the-story-hourI don’t know who introduced me to Thrity Umrigar – it was years ago- but I must thank them. They gave me a copy of her second book, The Space Between Us, and it was magnificent. Since then, I’ve always tried to keep my eyes open for new books by her, so I leaped at the chance to read The Story Hour.

The story centers on Lakshmi, a depressed immigrant to American, and Maggie her therapist. Lakshmi was admitted to the hospital after attempting suicide and Maggie was assigned to her because she is married to an Indian man. From the beginning, Maggie allows the boundaries that should exist between therapist and client dissolve.

Initially, the story appears to be about Maggie helping Lakshmi sort through her problems, but as the story moves on it becomes clear that Maggie has a host of issues of her own that must be dealt with. In the end Lakshmi steps to to assist Maggie, but does she do more harm than good?

I don’t know what it was about The Story Hour, but I could not put it down. Part of it is Umrigar’s facility with language. That is what initially drew me to her in The Space Between Us. And part of it is her ability to take fairly black and white issues and show all the shades of grey involved. I loved the way Umrigar dealt with issues of race, class and privilege in The Story Hour.

Who would like this book? I think this book would make a great book club pick. There are so many issues to discuss from mental health, to immigrants, to race and class. But there is also the style in which Umrigar writes that can contribute to a good discussion. In some ways The Story Hour reminded me of The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger (my review) and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (my review),  but it was more hopeful than either of these.

 I received a copy of this book for review consideration from the publisher via Edelweiss.

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