Thrity Umrigar’s The Secrets Between Us is one of those books I want to shout about from the rooftops. I want everyone to experience the depth and beauty of the author’s writing, the power of which moved me to tears ... a beautifully rendered story of the bonds between women and the lengths they’ll go to in order to achieve their dreams. It’s not an easy read by any means, as the author pulls no punches as she describes life in Mumbai ... I love when an author is able to bring a location completely to life, and Thrity Umrigar excels in this arena ... If you enjoy reading about female friendships, this is most assuredly the book for you.
Umrigar places these two old women, steeped in the strict class distinctions of their upbringing, in the midst of modern-day Mumbai. Through the character of Maya, the author builds hope for classes to better themselves, for gender equality and for a decrease in homophobia and sexual assault in India’s future. Her emotional portrayal of these two strong women will be a popular choice for book clubs, and for readers who enjoy multicultural family sagas.
The unpacking of these complications is one of the pleasures of Umrigar’s storytelling, one aspect of the immersive trip to India that her novels provide. The physicality of her writing, whether she’s describing the revolting sanitary conditions of Bhima’s slum or the slick, frigid ambience of an upscale shopping mall, is another. So, too, is the intricate language of nicknames and honorifics (didi, bai, baba, seth, mausi) and the rhyming slang ... On a deeper level, the book provides an almost 'Siddhartha'-esque experience of sharing a character’s spiritual journey.
Umrigar draws her characters with a keen and compassionate hand--not only her protagonists but her supporting characters as well ... Packed with sensory details and tart dialogue, Umrigar's novel deftly evokes the complicated realities of poverty, love, hard work, guilt, grief and friendship in modern-day Mumbai.
These plot predictabilities weaken a female-centered story framed by oppressive masculinity, but its poignancy and descriptive strength help redress the balance. A lengthy but affecting tale of late sisterhood.