The Story Hour
Dr. Maggie Bose is about to leave her office for the evening when she gets a call about a patient who has been admitted after a suicide attempt. Silently wishing she hadn’t answered the phone and angry at herself for feeling that way, Maggie agrees to see the patient. Not knowing what to expect, she finds a quiet, scared person who refuses to directly answer her questions --- or believe anything she says --- yet seems in control. After leaving the hospital, Maggie finds that the woman, an Indian immigrant named Lakshmi Patil, affected her more than she let on but can’t figure out why.
Lakshmi, caught up in a bad marriage and convinced by her husband that she isn’t worth much, is trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs. Having spent her life caring for and fixing the problems of others, she finds herself aimless, unable to fix her own life and almost unwilling to ask for help for herself. She spends her days working at her husband’s grocery store and restaurant. Between belittling comments, she begins to realize just how little she matters to him.
"I haven’t read anything by Thrity Umrigar before, but I’ve heard so much praise for her work. I now understand why; she is a truly wonderful storyteller. This may have been my first book of hers, but it certainly won’t be my last."
Maggie, a therapist known in her small community for her unorthodox methods, finds a way to reach Lakshmi. She decides that Lakshmi isn’t a danger to herself but sees that she needs someone to talk to and help her understand and come to terms with her situation. Maggie takes a shot and decides to treat Lakshmi free of charge as long as she will come to her private practice at her home. The once-a-week meetings begin, and both women find that they look forward to the sessions.
What Maggie comes to understand is that Lakshmi doesn’t so much talk as tell stories, which is how they come to know each other. They dance around issues, hiding their problems, but somewhere along the way end up friends. Maggie encourages Lakshmi to open her own catering business, and Lakshmi begins to help Maggie appreciate her husband, Sudhir. Sudhir, an Indian as well, gives Maggie insight to understanding Lakshmi, while Lakshmi provides reverse insight for Maggie, who is having doubts about her very organized and what she perceives to be a very boring life with Sudhir.
In the end, both ladies find that they are stronger and, in some ways, weaker than they ever imagined, and that’s what I truly loved about THE STORY HOUR. Maggie and Lakshmi are harboring painful truths that have changed and will change the course of their lives. Both face prejudices --- Maggie as an African-American, and Lakshmi as an Indian immigrant --- which has affected the way they live their lives and identify themselves. As their friendship grows, they start to see the world differently. They reveal truths about themselves, some very hurtful, but come to see how much life really has to offer.
Not only is the writing lovely, the characters are so very real. They hurt, they harm, they love and they live. They survive in spite of themselves. It is an all-absorbing story. Maggie and Lakshmi need each other but don’t quite know it. What they find in their friendship is understanding and forgiveness, which they both desperately need.
I haven’t read anything by Thrity Umrigar before, but I’ve heard so much praise for her work. I now understand why; she is a truly wonderful storyteller. This may have been my first book of hers, but it certainly won’t be my last.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on August 22, 2014
The Story Hour
- Publication Date: July 28, 2015
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial
- ISBN-10: 0062259318
- ISBN-13: 9780062259318