The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've loved Ms Umrigar's works since The Weight of Heaven and here, again, she gives us a story of India that resonates and (at times) brings tears to our eyes.
The pitiful lives that Pavarti and Bhima have managed to eke out are elevated from "pitiful" to "inspiring" by their refusal to bow down before their misfortune. In the modern, gentrifying city that is Mumbai, that people are forced to sleep in building hallways and rent beds in brothels is shocking, but to Pavarti, that's part of the lack of luck that's been her life. Bhima's firing by the Parsi family, whom she's served faithfully for decades, feels capricious and yet inevitable given the secrets she's privy to. That these two women eventually become business partners, even friends, is improbable and based on coincidence.
More surprising, given these women's lives, is that Bhima's granddaughter manages to navigate a very different version of India, one with less of a caste system, opportunities for women and no fear of the "taint" of lesbians being your friend. Maya's life gives Bhima hope for the future and occasional shame at her own inability to overcome her lifelong fears and sense of where she fits in to the world.
The ending was a little too tugging on the heartstrings and implausible, but I'm forgiving that part. Especially if, at some point, we return to at least one of these characters.
ARC provided by publisher.