Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf ~ Featuring Thrity Umrigar and Brian Morton

By Lynn Willoughby

The Story Hour ~ Thrity Umrigar

I cannot imagine the loneliness experienced by Lakshmi – a new immigrant with limited English, trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man. Lakshmi’s small world is limited to their small restaurant and store. Her husband will not allow her to communicate with her family in India. He constantly reprimands her and calls her stupid. She is so very desperate she tries to kill herself.

In hospital, her case is taken on by an experienced psychologist, Maggie. She soon realizes Lakshmi needs a friend even more than she needs a therapist. Maggie abandons protocol and soon doctor and patient have become close friends.

As Lakshmi gradually reveals herself and the secrets she carries, Maggie too begins to open up and share her life and her pain. They discover they have many points of connection and the bond they share is restorative to both.
The heavy weight of “…confusing…and shameful…” secrets leads us to question what we actually know about each of these women. Are they both victims or are they both devious and immoral?

As Lakshmi’s life improves, Maggie’s falls apart. I didn’t ever feel a lot of sympathy for either of these protagonists. Instead, I felt they each needed to own their mistakes, their pasts, their choices, the destructions of other lives that they have initiated. Is there a deep enough well of magnanimity and forgiveness for this book to end well?

– The World We Found
– The Space Between Us
……….and several others

Florence Gordon ~ Brian Morton

“Meet Florence Gordon: blunt, brilliant, cantankerous and passionate feminist icon to young women, invisible and under appreciated by most everyone else.”

I really like this book. Although it is not wildly exciting the characters are so well defined I felt I was living amongst them. The family dramas and frustrations are the same as those in every family.

Just when Florence, age seventy five, decides to write her memoir, her influence, stories of rallies ad jail time, her conferences and bra-burning in the early days of the feminist movement in the sixties, her son and his family return to Manhattan from Seattle. They embroil Florence in their dramas, cloud her days, make demands on her time, which she realizes is limited. And there is the problem with her left foot, which is beginning to drag, plus the tingling in her fingers.

This is not a “feel good” story. People have flaws and Morton realizes this and makes it part of the novel. People get cranky, especially Florence, who can take down all the fools around her with just one barbed sentence. When her friends and family surprise her with a seventy fifth birthday party – she walks out and goes home!
Florence is on a path of friendship and respect for her teenaged grand daughter – which is completely unexpected for both of them, especially Emily who has never really liked Florence. However, she never understood what an important and intellectual and iconic figure Florence is to a large community. Because Florence is a shrill, strident, demanding grandmother, who often forgets Emily’s name! Now Emily begins to think of “…a rather different model of how to be human…” as she spends more time with Florence. Youthful ambitions, midlife crisis, despairing old age are all explored, often satirically. It is a very good read.
Who Knew?

Martha Nussbaum is an American philosopher and professor of Law and Ethics. Her work is often focused on the unequal freedoms and opportunities of women.

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