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TLC Book Tour: The Story Hour Book Review and Discussion Questions

TLC Book Tour: The Story Hour Book Review and Discussion Questions

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours 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 Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
Published by Harper
Publication Date: Aug. 19, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, World or cultural
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: TLC Book Tours
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The Story Hour Book Review and Discussion Questions

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the critically beloved, bestselling author of The World We Found and The Space Between Us, whom the New York Times Book Review calls a “perceptive and . . . piercing writer,” comes 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.



My Thoughts:

I am a big fan of Thrity Umrigar’s novels, I thoroughly enjoyed both her fiction novel, The World We Found, and her memoir , First Darling of the Morning. So when I saw her newest novel, The Story Hour on the TLC Book Tour schedule, I promptly signed up.

The story weaves the tale of Lakshmi, an Indian immigrant who lives in America with a husband who pines after another woman. Their marriage is on paper only, they go through the rituals and duties of marriage as dictated by their heritage. But Lakshmi is painfully lonely in a country where she has no friends, is cut off from her family in India and struggles to communicate. It drives her to attempt suicide.


Suicide and Depression

It’s difficult reading about what drives Laskhmi to her most desperate hour. The path that leads her to attempt suicide. Suicide is a difficult topic to think about, that someone is so depressed that they would rather die than live another day. Days after reading those pages, Robin Williams committed suicide and both Lakshmi’s and Robin’s story tore up my heart.

There have been several times in my life when I was depressed, I didn’t think I would be able to fight it without medicine. Living with a chronic illness that impacts my abilities to be a mom, no one would blame me if I did take medicine. I cried as I told my doctors how I felt, things I never told my family. I never contemplated suicide but I know how dark my thoughts became. I thought my kids would be better off with their awesome fun and loving dad, they didn’t need mean old mom. This book made me relive how bad those days were, and made me thankful that deciding to be happy helped me fight depression without having to pop another pill for now.


Worlds Apart But Still the Same

Lakshmi meets Maggie, her psychologist, an African-American woman married to an Indian man. Maggie’s interracial marriage helps Lakshmi open up to her. Throughout the story, they test the boundaries of the doctor-patient relationship. It’s interesting to see how a poor, 8th-grade educated Indian woman and a professional American woman who are so obviously different, can make the same mistakes and learn from one another. I loved reading how Maggie and her husband took the time and extra effort to get Lakshmi back on her feet and take steps to improve her life.


The Immigrant Experience

The only drawback I had to the story was Lakshmi’s voice. Now I am not normally the grammar police, but it was mentally harder for me to read Lakshmi’s chapters in her broken English. Fluent English is a luxury I obviously take for granted. That being said, Lakshmi’s voice demonstrated the plight immigrants face trying to communicate in a foreign language. We get a good idea of how an immigrant feels or how they view our American landscape and culture. Can you imagine going to Japan not being able to read, speak or write Japanese? How well would you do reading store or road signs, living your life, buying groceries?


Being a Poor Woman in India

The chapters set in India show what life as a poor villager was like for Lakshmi. Being the self-proclaimed “ugly, older sister”, she cared for her younger sister, Shilpa, as if she was her daughter. Through Lakshmi’s eyes, we learn about the sense of a daughter’s duty towards her father, her spouse and the power of family honor. Umrigar really painted a picture of the emotional turmoil and pressure poor young girls face as they are forced into less than ideal marriage in the name of survival, reputation and family prosperity. Marriage being a moral obligation instead of a love match.

The Story Hour was an emotional read. Umrigar allows us to invade the most vulnerable and deepest thoughts of two women, shows us how they can be so apparently different but inherently the same, and how their mistakes impact their relationships and turn their lives upside down.

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For more reviews, please visit the other blogs on the tour schedule. Thanks TLC Book Tours for allowing me the opportunity to review this book and be part of the tour!


Challenges Satisfied:

Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge – India

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If your book club likes discussing thought-provoking issues like mental health, the immigrant experience, poverty and interracial marriage, then try THE STORY HOUR by Thrity Umrigar. Free printable discussion questions for your next book club discussion.

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. I love your discussion questions! I think they would really spark a good book club discussion. It seems to me that there’s very little compassion for suicide victims who we think have it all and “should” be happy. That must be difficult to grapple with, being so unhappy and yet having all the ingredients for happiness.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  2. I really wish people would try to understand that our own perspectives are limited – we don’t know what life is like for others. Robin Williams may have been a public figure, but that doesn’t mean we “knew” him.

    As for this book, I just received it from a fellow blogger – I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for the good review!

    1. I agree Jennine, there is too much judgment and not enough understanding in society today. No one is perfect and no one can truly know how another person feels. I know I felt that way about Robin Williams: I HOPED that he was as happy, funny and joyful in his personal life too and it was such a devastating blow to know he could be so sad.

  3. A wonderful review, Tanya! A person who has to struggle so much with his or her demons should not be considered selfish if he or she decides to take a drastic step. I can’t begin to imagine what you went through but am glad that your life took a positive turn! {{hugs}}

    1. Thanks Roshni. I agree with you, I was surprised to hear comments that Robin Williams was “selfish”. That is never a word that came across my mind when I hear someone commits suicide.

      I am glad deciding to stay home has made me happier and healthier. I was very sad for a long time but never would have thought of taking my own life. That being said, glad those dark days are behind me and hope they stay away!

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