BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar [in Booklist]

Chameleonic narrator Sneha Mathan amplifies Thrity Umrigar’s already spectacular new novel, the long-awaited sequel to the best-selling The Space Between Us (2005). While Umrigar focused on the complicated relationship between employer Sera and servant Bhima in Space, Secrets Between Us shifts from Mumbai’s haves versus have-nots to have-nots and have-even-lesses.

Released from Sera’s employ, Bhima struggles to support granddaughter Maya, determined that Maya will get the college education to escape slum life. Bhima’s decades of service are finally interrupted when she forms a surprising entrepreneurial partnership with older, even poorer Parvati; their practical arrangement quickly capitulates into a deeply personal bond.

Bolstered by a shared ethnicity with Umrigar’s memorable characters, Mathan shifts fluidly between accents, ages, and backgrounds. She’s especially affecting as the acerbic Parvati, melting the character’s sharpness as genuine kindness provides her with too-long-denied humanity. With her empathic range, Mathan creates distinct personalities for the many memorable supporting characters, including a professional lesbian couple unencumbered by socioeconomic boundaries, local slum neighbors, various market stall owners and workers, even the reappearance of Sera and her daughter.

Contrasting a rapidly changing contemporary India and the still-binding traditional limits of society, class, and gender, Umrigar’s latest might also be her best; Mathan proves to be her ideal collaborator.​

Review: “Media,” Booklist Online, October 22, 2018

Readers: Adult

Published: 2018


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