The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
Published: 2012 by Harper
Reading Challenge: Wishlist Challenge
This novel is about friendship and the lengths one would go to help friends in need.
As young university students, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita and Nishta were active in pursuing social justice with the aim of building a better India. They were the best of friends and were always thought of as a group, not as individuals. After university, however, when Armaiti moves to the U.S. for graduate school and Nishta essentially disappears off the radar, the group’s cohesion fades, though the friends are never far away from each other in their thoughts.
When Armaiti is diagnosed with a fatal disease for which she refuses to seek treatment, she asks her old friends Laleh and Kavita to find Nishta and have all three visit her before she dies. After some investigation, they find Nishta living in a remote area of Bombay. She is now known as Zoha and has converted to Islam at the behest of her husband, Iqbal – in conflict with their secular courtship as students. Despite Laleh and Kavita’s pleading on behalf of Armaiti – along with the intervention of Laleh’s husband, Adish – Iqbal absolutely forbids his wife to travel, in fact to even visit with her old friends. With the assistance of Iqbal’s sister – who completely disagrees with his stance on the matter – the plot is on to help Nishta/Zoha escape to visit Armaiti and also to escape her isolated life.
Now I have to say that I did enjoy reading this book, but I had a problem with how the novel ended. Without giving away anything, I have to say that the book should have been longer, because what I thought to be a critical narrative of the novel was not completed (if you have read the novel, let me know and we can talk about this!). In addition, I felt that the novel did nothing but perpetuate common Western stereotypes of Islam, specifically of men who follow the religion, and that made me uncomfortable. Iqbal’s devotion to his religion is a relevant component to the story line, but there were certain scenes that I felt were unnecessary.
But that is only my opinion. Check out the other stops of this tour for views on this novel and others by Thrity Umrigar, an author who is definitely worth reading.