Excerpt from The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Story Hour

by Thrity Umrigar

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar X
The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2014, 336 pages
    Jul 2015, 352 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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I begins.

Dear Shilpa—I writes. Belief me when I say not single day pass in six years that I not thought of you. How are you, my dearest?

Then I takes the paper, roll it like a ball of dough, and throws it across from the room. It land on top of the coffee table—why he call it the coffee table when in this house we only drink chai?—and I goes to pick it up to place in the dustbin. Shilpa never reading my note. He will never posting to her. Some things even stupids like me know.

I look at clock on the wall. Eight-forty- five, evening time. Husband be home by ten-thirty. Quickly-quickly I goes to the bathroom and open the medicine chest. I takes all the bottles out and carry them to the sitting room. I put the bottles in a row and for one minute only my stomach faints, as if the medicines is already in it. But then Bobby's thin face come to me and I see his sad blue eyes and the pain shoot my heart again. It was not my imagine. Bobby, too, look sad when he leaf today. I will miss you, he said, and his words was both honey and poison, sun and moon in the same sky.

I didn't say: Why you must go to the California? I didn't say: I wanting you to come to the restaurant every Thursday forever so I can watch you eat and feel the full in my stomach. I didn't say: In this cold country where I having no friend or relation, you are the only one who smile to me, who talk to me like I am person and not the garbage. I did not say: I have betrayed my husband twice—once to saves my family, second to save my soul. I didn't say, I didn't say anything at all.

Six tablets in the husband's My Grain bottle. Three antibiotic. Seventeen green tablets for relaxing the muscle from when he had the back pain last year. I remember something, and hurry from the room. In kitchen cabinet above microwave is big bottle of ibuprofen from Costco. I open. Hundreds of orange tablets. While in kitchen, I fill large pitcher of water.

I feels I should pray. Do pooja. Ask Bhagwan's pardon for sin I am doing. Ask husband's forgiving, also, for inconvenient I am causing him. Marry Rekha, I want to tell him. Rekha work in our grocery store next to the restaurant and I have saw how she look at him all flirty-flirty. Husband is good man, he work hard, eyes down, never notice Rekha or other ladies. Not his mistake he don't love me. Not his mistake I don't love him. Early on after marriage, I was hoping that slowly-slowly, the love will come. If my ma still alive, she could tell me what to do to make the love come. But Ma dead long back, and so I wait. When husband's father die three year back and he can't leaf business to fly to India, he so sad and griefing, and I think love will now happen between us, for surely. When I buy a new red sari for his friend's marriage and husband look at me and smile, I think that is love but it just the alcohol. Now I know. Husband love one woman. That woman not me.

I am not ascare to die. I am only ascare that after death I be alone. Maybe because of suicide, I go to the hell? If hell all hot and crowded and noiseful, like Christian minister on TV say, then I not care because it will be just like India. But if hell cold and quiet, with lot of snow and leaf-empty trees, and people who smile with string-thin lips, then I ascare. Because it seem so much like my life in Am'rica.

Bobby said he moving to the California to be near his sister. "I'm tired of being so far away from family," he say. "You know?"

"I know."

He listen something in my voice because he look up immediately. His eyes as blue as July sky. His long yellow hair fall like sunshine on his forehead and my finger burn from not touching it. "Yeah, I guess you do," he say, and then he smile, and I feels something hot and living move from my stomach all the way to my face. The husband is thirty feet away, sweating in his white undershirt in the too-hot kitchen, but he is nobody to me right now, a stranger on the bus, a blind man who never seen me. Bobby is the one who reading my heart, who knows my feets are in Am'rica, but that each night my heart fly like a bird over my father's fields, over our village square, over the stone house my dada build himself, searching, searching for Shilpa. Bobby—who never talk to my husband even though husband sometimes leaf the kitchen to come joke with his regular customer and say, "See you next Thursday, sir"; who sometime send an extra-special sweet from kitchen for him—Bobby can see that my husband do not let me talk to my relations, that he has made me a tree without root system, that he look at me and see the nothing. Sometimes when husband call me from the kitchen and his voice is sharp as the knife he holding, Bobby look up at me and make the face, the way children do when they taste a sour green mango from the tree. But something encourage in that face, also, like he say, "Go, Lakshmi. You strong woman. I knows you sad but the God will help you. Be brave."

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From The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar Copyright © 2014 by Thrity Umrigar. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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