Summary and book reviews of The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

The Story Hour

by Thrity Umrigar

The Story Hour
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2014, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2015, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

A profound, heartbreakingly honest novel about friendship, family, secrets, forgiveness, and second chances.

An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she meets a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, Lakshmi is desperately lonely and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store.

Moved by her plight, Maggie treats Lakshmi in her home office for free, quickly realizing that the despondent woman doesn't need a shrink; she needs a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient have become close friends.

But while their relationship is deeply affectionate, it is also warped by conflicting expectations. When Maggie and Lakshmi open up and share long-buried secrets, the revelations will jeopardize their close bond, shake their faith in each other, and force them to confront painful choices.

1

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...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What is the value of sharing stories with each other?

  2. How do you define the boundary between a therapist and a friend?

  3. How do the chapters narrated by Lakshmi differ from those told from Maggie's perspective?

  4. What do Lakshmi's flashbacks to her life in India add to our understanding of her?

  5. Lakshmi loves to sit by the river, while Maggie finds peace floating and swimming in the community pool. Where else does water appear in the novel? Why is water literally and mythically powerful for us ?

  6. What does Lakshmi's experience with Mithai the elephant bring to the story?

  7. At one point, Sudhir critiques psychotherapy, suggesting that such "mollycoddling" is simply a blame game that keeps people from taking responsibility for their...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Thrity Umrigar's sixth novel is simultaneously a study of a friendship, a morality play, and an exploration of how personal history can shape relationships, often in surprising ways. But readers certainly won't anticipate this kind of scope from the novel's opening scenes, in which Lakshmi Patil, a recent immigrant to the U.S. from India, attempts to commit suicide and is assigned to a therapist, Maggie Bose. The Story Hour is the kind of novel that starts out small, but quickly expands to encompass much broader themes and conflicts than the reader might initially expect.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review Members Only (496 words).

Media Reviews

The Boston Globe

A taut, suspenseful page-turner with depth, heart, and psychological credibility whose believable and enduring characters ponder the meaning of friendship, the challenges of marriage, and the value of storytelling itself.

O, The Oprah Magazine

Past misdeeds threaten the friendship of a psychologist and her immigrant patient in a fictional tale that asks, are we more than the sum of our mistakes?

Publishers Weekly

Although Umrigar is sometimes heavy-handed, this compassionate and memorable novel is remarkable for the depth and complexity of its characters.

Kirkus Reviews

An impressive writer, Umrigar delivers another smart, compulsively readable work.

Booklist

Skillful… Much like a therapy session, this deft, well-paced novel contains breakthroughs and growth, and, at its end, leaves the reader wistful that the allotted time on the couch has run out.

Library Journal

Starred Review. This satisfying, psychologically complex story will appeal to a wide range of readers. Because its characters are both smart and likable without being sentimental or idealized, it may appeal to the chick lit crowd as much as to readers who enjoy multicultural literary fiction.

Author Blurb Paula McClain, author of The Paris Wife
With grace, wisdom and incredible compassion, Thrity Umrigar has woven together the lives of two seemingly dissimilar women who must learn - against steep odds - to forgive each other and themselves.

Author Blurb Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird's Daughter
Thrity Umrigar has an uncanny ability to look deeply into the human heart and find the absolute truth of our lives. The Story Hour is stunning and beautiful. Lakshmi and Maggie will stay with readers for a very long time.

Author Blurb Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, author of Oleander Girl and Sister of My Heart
Thrity Umrigar's novel The Story Hour showcases her ability to bring to life characters who are . . . sympathetic yet flawed in ways we can all relate to.

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Beyond the Book

The Asian Elephant

Asian ElephantAs Lakshmi recounts her history in India, we learn that she considers one of her best friends to be an elephant, Mithai (which means "sweets" or "dessert"). Her youthful courage in defending Mithai foreshadows her later courage in dealing with the greater complexities of adulthood.

Asian elephants are perhaps not as well known in the West as African elephants, although they are also highly endangered. The Asian elephant is smaller than its African cousin and, in particular, its ears are smaller and more rounded. They also have a single "finger" on their trunk, compared with two in the African elephant. They live in thirteen countries in Asia - India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma, Laos, at the ...

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