THE SPACE BETWEEN US

By Thrity Umrigar
Harper PerennialFebruary 2007
www.harperperennial.com

Paperback352 pages, $14.95, ISBN: 978-0-06-079156-8
Subject: Culture & World Issues / Women’s Lives / Relationships

  1. The novel deals with a relationship that, despite all the good will in the world, is ultimately based on the exploitation of one human being by another. Has this novel caused you to look at any situations in your own life where you may be benefiting from the labor or poverty of another?
  2. Remarking on the fact that Bhima is not allowed to sit on the furniture in Sera Dubash's home, or drink from the same glass, it could be said that the novel is about a kind of "Indian Apartheid." Do you think that's putting it too strongly? If not, can you identify any parallels in contemporary America?
  3. The novel tracks the lives of two women. Trace some of the ways in which their lives resemble each other's. What are the points of departure?
  4. Neither Sera nor Bhima end up with happy, successful marriages. Why? Trace the factors that cause each marriage to fail. And for all its failings, which woman has the better marriage?
  5. The Afghani balloonwalla is a minor but pivotal character in the novel. What is his role? What does he symbolize or represent?
  6. The novel is told from the points of view of the two women, Bhima and Sera. Should it have included more points of view? For instance, should Viraf have had his own "voice"?
  7. How do you read the ending of the book? Is it a hopeful ending? Do you think the ending is justified, given what awaits Bhima the next day?
  8. This is a novel about the intersection of class and gender. Can you think of ways in which gender bonds the two women and ways in which class divides them?
  9. What societal changes and/or personal choices would need to be different in order for us to envision the possibility of someone like Bhima having a better life?
  10. The author has said that although the plot of The Space Between Us is a work of fiction, the character of Bhima is based on a woman who used to work in her home when the writer was a teenager. Is there any person in your own life who has inspired you enough to want to write a book about them? What is it about that person that had a deep impact on you?

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