Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Story Hour

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
HarperCollins: 8/19/2014
eBook, 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062259301
An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she agrees to treat a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store, Lakshmi is desperately lonely.
Moved by Lakshmi's plight, Maggie offers to see her as an outpatient for free. In the course of their first sessions in Maggie's home office, she quickly realizes that what Lakshmi really needs is not a shrink but a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient become close. Even though they seemingly have nothing in common, both women are haunted by loss and truths that they are afraid to reveal.
However, crossing professional boundaries has its price. As Maggie and Lakshmi's relationship deepens, long-buried secrets come to light that shake their faith in each other and force them to confront painful choices in their own lives.
With Thrity Umrigar's remarkable sensitivity and singular gift for an absorbing narrative, The Story Hour explores the bonds of friendship and the margins of forgiveness.

My Thoughts:

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar is a recommended novel that explores the evolution and the boundaries of an unconventional friendship.

Dr. Maggie Bose, a black psychologist, first meets Lakshmi, a young Indian immigrant, after her suicide attempt. Maggie assumes that this cry for help is due to cultural separation and isolation and perhaps an abusive husband. Maggie, who is married to an Indian man, manages to establish communication with Lakshmi. While trying to insure Lakshmi continues treatment, Maggie offers to see her for therapy at her home office for free. While Maggie tries to help, the arrangement soon morphs into something different as Lakshmi needs a friend. Maggie is quickly cast in that role and reinforces this when she tries to help Lakshmi. Soon the boundaries between patient and Dr. are breached.

While I enjoyed The Story Hour, there are a couple little details that prevented me from giving it my highest rating.

I absolutely had to force myself to continue reading after the first page. The chapters alternate between Lakshmi and Maggie. Maggie's chapters are in third person while Lakshmi's are written in first person. Therein lies my problem. In Lakshmi's chapters she is talking in an Indian/English patois, which I found extremely distracting and awkward to read. It did get easier as the novel progressed, but that initial impression lingered. I know other people have noticed this but it didn't bother them, so this is definitely a personal quirk. If you think you might be bothered by this, take note. Additionally, I am not so keen on Maggie's personal and professional choices. She showed a great lack of judgment in having an affair (and seemingly with little forethought) and her inability to keep professional boundaries was disturbing. I honestly didn't like her as a character.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.

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