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The First Darling of the Morning by Thrity Umrigar Memoir Book Review

The First Darling of the Morning by Thrity Umrigar Memoir Book Review

I received this book for free from Library for review consideration, opinions expressed are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you.

The First Darling in the Morning by Thrity Umrigar
Published by Harper Perennial
Publication Date: 2004
Genres: Biography/Memoir, Contemporary Women, Nonfiction, World or cultural
Pages: 294
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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Synopsis from Goodreads:

First Darling of the Morning is the powerful and poignant memoir of bestselling author Thrity Umrigar, tracing the arc of her Bombay childhood and adolescence from her earliest memories to her eventual departure for the United States at age twenty-one. It is an evocative, emotionally charged story of a young life steeped in paradox; of a middle-class Parsi girl attending Catholic school in a predominantly Hindu city; of a guilt-ridden stranger in her own land, an affluent child in a country mired in abysmal poverty. She reveals intimate secrets and offers an unflinching look at family issues once considered unspeakable as she interweaves two fascinating coming-of-age stories—one of a small child, and one of a nation.”

My Thoughts:

I was honored when Savvy Working Gal asked me to select a nonfiction book about India for her book club’s February selection. I chose Thrity Umrigar’s memoir, First Darling of the Morning because I loved her fiction novel The World We Found so much.  Thrity’s writing style is lyrical and touching and I thought Thrity would paint an intimate portrait of growing up in a crowded, booming and bustling Bombay.

Like The Devil in the White City (another one of my favorite non-fiction novels), First Darling read like a fiction novel. We experience the sights and sounds of Thrity’s family through her eyes and her heart. Thrity has a dynamic family unit between her feuding parents, a strict mother and a doting, hard-working father, loving aunts and an uncle that treat her like a daughter, most of whom share the same apartment.  Tensions run high with all these adults in the house. Through the turmoil, I felt her youthful innocence, how she blamed herself for her parents’ fighting and yet she felt such joy in the simplest of moments. I really enjoyed the unfiltered emotion that this book brought out in me and the difficult, poignant, and loving journey that Thrity takes us on.

I pictured what I remember of my childhood trip to India as the backdrop for the book and it made the book more powerful and emotional. I went to India as a teenager and  the experience was etched on my mind and heart. It was the last time I would hug and kiss 3 of my grandparents.

I was nostalgic for the joyous, vibrant, unconditional, encompassing love from her family that made me cry.

I can see the impoverished kids approaching pedestrians or cars to beg for money as their drivers honk, whiz by them and pretend they don’t exist.I felt the same yearning as Thrity did to give in to the kids’ pleas for food, only to be told we couldn’t, we can’t help them all.

I remember the cows roaming the crowded Bombay streets.

I can smell and taste the delicacies of an Indian kitchen, the chai, the kulfi (ice cream), the mithai (sweets), the lassi (a sweet buttermilk drink), dahiwada, bhel, curries, dishes bursting with flavor and spice. (Thank goodness we will see my parents soon, I’m torturing my tastebuds here…)

I bawled at the thought of young Thrity leaving the only family she knew to come to America, the land of opportunity. I  thought of my newleywed parents saying goodbye to their parents to pursue a better way of life for their future family, me, their only daughter.

Favorite Quotes:

p. 138 “At home it is easy to ignore them but here, out in the open, there is no turning away from these dark and hungry eyes and from the questions about the accidents of birth and the randomness of privilege that they arouse in me.”

p. 152 “Every once in a great while, it occurs to me that I lead a schizophrenic life: I am a Parsi teenager attending a Catholic school in the middle of a city that’s predominantly Hindu. I’m a middle-class girl living in the country that’s among the poorest in the world. I am growing up in the country that kicked out the British fourteen years before I was born but I still have never read a novel by an Indian writer.  But this is what it means to be a secular Bombayite, I tell myself – to take all the contradicting parts of your life and to make a unified whole out of it; to know that you are a cultural mongrel, the bastard child of history and to learn to be amused, even proud of the fact.”

p. 284 “He smiles and even though it is dark I see so much kindness and love in his eyes, it takes my breath away. I am not worth of this, I think. I am not good enough for the love of this man. ‘I know, sweetheart’ he says, ‘I know.’ I put my arm around his neck. We sit there for the longest time, staring at the water pounding against the black rocks, feeling its spray against our faces. Don’t ever let me forget this evening, I whisper to the sea. Don’t ever let me forget how loved I am. The foam on the surface of the black water hisses as it hits the rocks.”

Challenges Satisfied:

Around the World in 80 Books Reading Challenge – India, again 🙂

What books have you read that remind you of your childhood, a special place or special people? 



About Thrity Umrigar

From Barnes & Noble: “Thrity Umrigar is the author of five novels and the memoir First Darling of the Morning. A former journalist, she is a winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard and a finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award. A professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, she lives in Cleveland, Ohio.”

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  1. You always do the best book reviews! I can’t keep adding all these books to my list, I’ll never be able to blog..LOL

    I would have to say that “Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry” is the book that reminds me of my childhood. I remember my mom talking about some of the stuff they mentioned in the book.

    1. Thanks Alicia! It is hard striking a balance between my two hobbies, blogging and reading. I have not read Roll of Thunder but would like to. I hope it brought back good childhood memories 🙂

  2. What a beautiful review it is as poignant any lyrical as the book. I thought of you from time to time while reading and am glad you shared your nostalgia. Yes, this book does read like fiction and I hope to read one of Thrifty’s fiction books someday. Thanks for introducing me to her.

    1. Thanks so much Savvy Working Gal for your kind words. I am so glad you enjoyed the book and look forward to reading other Around the World books with you. I am so glad you joined the challenge and hope to join you again for another book club selection.

  3. lovely review ~ I have not read Umriger but her writing sounds so lyrical. I’m visiting from the Spring Fling – popping in to say hello and to empathize with you raising children with an autoimmune disease ~ I raised 3 children and have Multiple Sclerosis and we all survived 🙂 My two daughters are now in college and my son is “finding himself” at 18. Each day is a small victory and I promise your family will be all the better for supporting you and your illness. Sending pain-free days and smiles your way!

    1. Thanks Stacy for sharing your MS story. It’s other moms like you who inspire me. I started this blog to celebrate my small victories and it’s definitely helped me change my outlook. I find small victories everywhere and not enough time to write about them all. I hope you are feeling well despite the MS.

      I love Thrity’s books, and excited for the new one she has coming out this year too. Let me know if you give one of her books a try and I look forward to discussing more good books with you!

    1. Thanks Terrin, I hope you browsed around, I’ve got lots of good books to read! Are you reading something now that you are enjoying? Thanks for stopping by from SITS!

    1. Which ones did you read Judith? I saw on her FB page she has The Story Hour coming out this year and that the Space Between us was optioned for a movie 🙂

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