THE STORY HOUR by Thrity Umrigar


I am participating today in the TLC blog tour for Thrity Umrigar’s The Story Hour. I haven’t read any of Umrigar’s other books (If Today Be Sweet, The Space Between Us), but I have heard good things about them, so I jumped on the opportunity to take part in this tour.

The Story Hour is about two women – Lakshmi, an Indian woman living in a loveless marriage in America with her Indian husband, and Maggie, an African-American therapist, also married to an Indian man, who ends up treating Lakshmi after she tries to kill herself. The two women develop an unusually close relationship from the start, and become more like friends than therapist-patient. Maggie crosses a number of lines in her treatment of Lakshmi, despite internal warnings, including getting Lakshmi to cater and clean for her friends and teaching her how to drive.

As the two get more involved in each other’s lives, Lakshmi reveals more about her past, and Maggie realizes that what she thought she understood about Lakshmi situation wasn’t really accurate. At the same time, she struggles with her own feelings about her husband and a visiting professor to whom she is very attracted.

Why are Lakshmi and Maggie so drawn to each other? There’s the Indian husband thing, yes, but they are two women from fundamentally different backgrounds. Umrigar sets up some parallels between the two: both women have secrets, both lost their mothers early in life, both women have been dishonest to their husbands, both women have acted recklessly at times. But I had a hard time falling for the central construct of the book, which is the magnetic but ultimately destructive nature of the women’s relationship. Maggie’s intense interest in Lakshmi beyond the professional never rang true for me.

I was ultimately somewhat disappointed by The Story Hour. I found it all to be pretty shallow – the characters, the plot, the themes. Umrigar’s treatment of longstanding marriages felt artificially simplified, and I had a hard time accepting Maggie as a therapist. She sounded like a girlfriend taking Lakshmi out to lunch, rather than a mental health professional dealing with a suicidal client. Also, Lakshmi and Maggie were both pretty immature. Given what I have heard of Umrigar’s other books, I expected a deeper, more nuanced story than the one I read. Lakshmi’s sections are also told in broken English, which was a little distracting.

That said, I enjoyed Umrigar’s depiction of the loneliness of the immigrant, and the stories of Lakshmi’s life in India before her marriage. Umrigar has a keen eye for detail – both physical and emotional – and I did feel as though I got textured and complete picture of the characters (despite their immaturity).

A lot of people really enjoyed The Story Hour, so don’t take my word for it. And I will still give Umrigar’s other books a try.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for inviting me to participate and to Harper for the review copy.

13 Comments

  • September 19, 2014 - 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to see you didn’t love this because I’ve been looking forward to it for a while.

    • gayle
      September 22, 2014 - 9:54 pm | Permalink

      You may love it!

  • September 19, 2014 - 6:46 pm | Permalink

    My tour post was yesterday. Sorry you weren’t thrilled with the book. I ended up liking it more than you did.

    • gayle
      September 22, 2014 - 9:54 pm | Permalink

      I enjoyed your review and am glad that you liked the book!

  • Pingback: Thrity Umrigar, author of The Story Hour, on tour August/September 2014 | TLC Book Tours

  • September 19, 2014 - 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

    • gayle
      September 22, 2014 - 9:54 pm | Permalink

      You’re welcome!

  • September 21, 2014 - 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read this one yet but have read other books by the author that I really enjoyed. I think the immigrant theme in this one would definitely appeal to me. Thanks for your honest review.

    • gayle
      September 22, 2014 - 9:53 pm | Permalink

      I really want to read her other books.

  • September 21, 2014 - 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I’d be curious what you think of her other books!

  • Diane@BibliophilebytheSea
    September 23, 2014 - 6:57 am | Permalink

    I liked this one, but had a problem with Lashima’s voice. It certainly was not my favorite by the author, but still enjoyable for me.

  • Sarah
    September 29, 2014 - 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Interesting sounding book. I remember really enjoying “The Space Between Us” when I read it, though I remember very little about it now, 5+ years after reading it. I also read and liked “Bombay Time” by TU, but again have every little recall.

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