At last we come to the end of our readalong of Thrity Umrigar's "The Space Between Us." It would be more accurate for me to say "Sadly" rather than "At last" to be honest. This was one of those books that you just don't want to reach the end of--and one that will stay with me.
Well, I'd like to tell you about these final chapters but I can't without revealing too much and I so want you to read this book. So it will have to suffice to say that "spaces" become so much more apparent and that certain truths are finally revealed.
A minor but important character, an Afghani balloon man that used to work on Chowpatty Beach, comes back in the final chapter. Umrigar previously wrote that he symbolized to Bhima how to live with loneliness. Here, his memory shows her how to live with strength:
""Bhima marvels at the paradox: A solitary man, an exile, a man without a country or a family, had still succeeded in creating dreamworlds for hundreds of children, had entered the homes of strangers with his creations of color and fantasy and magic. A man who would never again touch or kiss the sweet faces of his own children brought smiles to the faces of other people's children. Like a musician, the Pathan had learned how to make a song out of his loneliness. Like a magician, he had learned how to use sheer air to contort limp pieces of rubber into objects of happiness. Empty-handed, he had built a world."
Umrigar writes some of the most incredible characters. At the back of this book, she reveals why it was possible in this one - there really was a Bhima. She worked in the house that Umrigar grew up in "cleaning furniture she was not allowed to sit on, cooking food she was not allowed to share at the family dining table." Dinaz is a reflection of Umrigar herself--a young person who "sensed [Bhima's] essential goodness and dignity and stoic heroism." And Sera was born of watching her own aunts interact with Bhima.
Umrigar doesn't explore any new ground in this book. She is not the first person to write about class distinctions, poverty, and despair. Umrigar just does it better than most. She pulls you into the story and brings you down to a personal level that really makes you care about the characters and the story she is trying to tell.