The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
Date Published: January 3, 2012 (hardcover); July 31, 2012 (paperback)
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Rating: 5 out of 5
Book Summary: As university students in late 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable. Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But over the past thirty years, the quartet has drifted apart, the day-to-day demands of work and family tempering the revolutionary fervor they once shared.
Then comes devastating news: Armaiti, who moved to America, is gravely ill and wants to see the old friends she left behind. For Laleh, reunion is a bittersweet reminder of unfulfilled dreams and unspoken guilt. For Kavita, it is an admission of forbidden passion. For Nishta, it is the promise of freedom from a bitter, fundamentalist husband. And for Armaiti, it is an act of acceptance, of letting go on her own terms.
The World We Found is a dazzling masterwork from the remarkable Thrity Umrigar, offering an unforgettable portrait of modern India while it explores the enduring bonds of friendship and the power of love to change lives.
My Thoughts: The bonds between the four women in The World We Found reminded me of some of the friendships I made during my college years. I may not see or talk to some of these friends for years but I know if I called them tomorrow to say I needed to see them, they’d try their best to come. Author Thrity Umrigar adeptly captures the strong, enduring, albeit complicated, ties many women forge during their school years. These indelible connections between women remain strong over the years even when they’re separated by vast distances and haven’t spoken in years. So it’s easy to believe Laleh and Kavita’s willingness to visit Armaiti in America when she contacts them after years of silence, telling them she is ill.
As we age and form our own lives, things may become complicated. Children, finances and beliefs, for instance, may change the people we were. Nishta, the fourth woman of the group, married a Muslim man, Iqbal, a friend of the group at university. Nishta was Hindu and, as a result of her marriage, is denounced by her family. Nishta and Iqbal weren’t religious when they married. But, as the years pass, events such as the Hindu-Muslim riots of the early ‘90s and a dark tragic occurrence in his sister’s past deeply impacts Iqbal. He becomes a devout Muslim. Many of Iqbal’s ideas and beliefs change, adversely affecting his relationship with Nishta and their life. When Laleh and Kavita finally track her down, Nishta’s living in a rundown part of India they didn’t know existed. They don’t even recognize their old friend. Suddenly, the trip to America isn’t so simple an undertaking. Getting Nishta to join them and freeing her from the prison her marriage has essentially become, is now the main focus of the book. This sets the groundwork for a suspenseful and intense unfolding of the story.
The other books I’ve read by Thrity Umrigar lead me to expect fleshed-out, three-dimensional characters. People who are relatable despite their different ethnicities and cultures. Umrigar doesn’t disappoint in The World We Found. Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita and Nishta are so well crafted they become real to me early on. Having each narrate several chapters is a very effective means of accomplishing this because it allows the reader to get each characters unfiltered point of view. The variety of narrators also add depth and intrigue to the story. Iqbal is another character who narrates several chapters. This provides the opportunity to get to know him better, resulting in his becoming much more than a representative of evil. A simple “bad guy”. Rather, he becomes a real person with his own doubts and opinions: someone with a very different point of view than the main characters, yet we can understand and relate to him. In a less talented author’s hands, many narrators could become very confusing. But Umrigar is extremely talented and capable, so that using multiple perspectives adds depth and color to an already captivating book.
What I also found absorbing and touching each time it was examined was how each woman thought about who they were during their university years, remembering their beliefs and opinions at the time as well as their hopes and plans for their future. Umrigar very effectively portrayed each women’s feelings as they found themselves tied up in remembering who they were, who they are now, and where they are going. Each of the women found themselves not only thinking of their own lives, but their friends’ as well. Depending on when and where the reader is in their lives, they might find these parts of the book to be very personal, resonating on many levels. Just as you might run into an old friend who’s become everything she said she would and find yourself wondering what happened to me, you could just as easily meet up with someone from your past who you can’t help but pity. All this is universal and because it happens in this book, it adds yet another layer with which the reader can identify.
I have enjoyed all of the books by Thrity Umrigar I’ve read, but The World We Found is my favorite. This book is an amazing and mezmirizing story that's not easily forgotten. Modern India is portrayed in vividly described scenes and, although some of the events and occurrences related are sad and depressing, as a whole, the book is not dark. The World We Found is a story of hope, energy and the power of friendship and love. Umrigar’s compelling prose provides for fluid pages that result in an very readable, wonderful book that’s tough to put down. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys beautifully written fiction.
For information on Thrity Umrigar and her other books, visit her website.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review The World We Found and to Harper Perennial for a copy of this book.