Wednesday, September 10, 2014

BLOG TOUR: The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

Title: The Story Hour
Author: Thrity Umrigar
Genre: Adult Contemp. Fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: August 19/2014
Adquired: Print ARC provided by Publisher
Goodreads: ADD

From the critically beloved, bestselling author of The World We Found and The Space Between Us, whom the New York Times Book Review calls a "perceptive and . . . piercing writer," comes a profound, heartbreakingly honest novel about friendship, family, secrets, forgiveness, and second chances.

An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she meets a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, Lakshmi is desperately lonely and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store.

Moved by her plight, Maggie treats Lakshmi in her home office for free, quickly realizing that the despondent woman doesn't need a shrink; she needs a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient have become close friends.

But while their relationship is deeply affectionate, it is also warped by conflicting expectations. When Maggie and Lakshmi open up and share long-buried secrets, the revelations will jeopardize their close bond, shake their faith in each other, and force them to confront painful choices.


My hopes soared for The Story Hour, I was so deeply touched by The Space Between Us, so moved by the poignant display of human failure and triumph, that I gathered all of my expectations and demanded the same from this new novel. I wasn't sorely disappointed, but my range of emotions while reading The Story Hour wasn't as varied, and definitely not as engaged.

Following a tried and true narrative of the author's, The Story Hour involves the lives of two main characters-every couple of chapters, a different perspective. We meet Lakshmi first, at the most vulnerable moment in her life, and immediately before she attempts to take her own life. Years of enduring both a loveless country and marriage has finally broken Lakshmi's soul, and her will to carry on. When Lakshmi isn't successful with her attempt, we are then introduced to therapist Maggie Bose, whose own life isn't without it's obstacles. At the opposite end of the spectrum from Lakshmi's life, Maggie is happily married, and has a thriving career. When Maggie is assigned as Lakshmi's therapist, the two embark on a journey that begins as anything but professional, and by the end, has the two women changed beyond their wildest dreams.

I usually wouldn't point it out, but I want to in this case, because it was such an important detail in the story line, and to be honest, an extremely refreshing change for me. Maggie was of African-American descent, and oh my goodness, STOP the world. It was mentioned by the third or fourth page, in order to create solidarity between the two women, that in addition to Maggie being black, she was also married to an Indian man. I want to applaud Thrity a million times on her character choices, I want to tell her that she broke the molds for me, and gave me and every other reader, a rare chance at experiencing a diversity that should exist SO much more than it does. I will now proceed to tell you that I was one feeling short of completely despising Maggie, her character was selfish, impatient, and condescending. Lakshmi was definitely the hero of this narrative, in so many ways.

Thrity's writing, unfortunately, fell short for me this time around as well. Lakshmi had my heart, but her chapters were like a cheese grater to the brain. Her broken English, and grammatically incorrect narrative, was incredibly, incredibly hard to follow. So much so, that I took to just 'auto-correcting' everything in my head before I read it. I understood the need to convey the level of Lakshmi's intelligence, and it definitely added a good contrast between the two women, but oh man, was it annoying. When Maggie's chapters finally came back, I was torn between feelings of walking into an air-conditioned room on a +45 degree day (because, bless you correct grammar), and wanting to rip my hair out because Maggie was so irritatingly deceiving at times.

In all, The Story Hour is not what I would deem a solid, well-rounded novel, but it's one that I wouldn't have wanted to miss. Thrity Umrigar is definitely one of my 'auto-buy' authors, and I will be recommending this book to those who are looking to indulge in stories of triumphs.

Recommended for Fans of: Contemporary, Cultural Fiction, Women's Fiction, Painted Hands by Jennifer Zobair.

A journalist for seventeen years, Thrity Umrigar has written for the Washington Post, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and other national newspapers, and contributes regularly to the Boston Globe's book pages. She teaches creative writing and literature at Case Western Reserve University. The author of The Space Between Us, Bombay Time, and the memoir First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood, she was a winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University. She has a Ph.D. in English and lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Thank-you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for hosting this tour, and to Harper for sending me a print ARC to review!

CLICK HERE to follow the rest of the tour

1 comment:

  1. Umrigar seems like such a fantastic author! I can't wait to read one of her books.

    Thanks for being on the tour!


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