Attending college in 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta had the whole world before them. They were smart, idealistic, inseparable activists who were determined to fight for social change. A couple of them had boyfriends that they would later go on to marry, but most importantly, they had each other.
Thirty years later, time and distance have separated the four women. Laleh and Kavita are still best friends, but Kavita is hiding a major part of her life from Laleh. No one has heard from Nishta in years. Armaiti, now living in the United States, is the one to bring the four back together when she reaches out with devastating news: she has terminal cancer and would like to see her friends one last time.
I thoroughly enjoyed so many aspects about this book. On the surface, The World We Found is a beautiful study of close female friendships, the kind where you can go ages without seeing each other and still be able to pick up where you left off. Some of my closest (and oldest) friendships work this way, so this aspect of the plot was completely believable for me.
But the real beauty of the book is how there are enough intricate layers to person talking about it forever. The title is one such indication: the world that the women find themselves in–and the people they have become–is at times in complete opposition to the world they were fighting for as college students. Social justice–especially with regards to socioeconomics and religious tolerance–was something they once passionately fought for; as adults, most of them are living comfortably enough to think about those things only in principle; when put to the test, they know that the ideals they once believed in would now require too much sacrifice.
No one embodies this contradiction more than Nishta. In college, she was a Hindu and dated the love of her life, a suave Muslim named Iqbal who shared her ideas. They were the couple that everyone looked to, the couple that came together despite their religious differences (and despite their country’s sometimes violent Hindu-Muslim history). They were the future. Yet when the realities of Nishta’s future become clear, her friends cannot get over their shock. Suffice it to say, religion plays a huge part in the book…sometimes uncomfortably so.
This was the first book by Thrity Umrigar that I’ve read, though I do own a couple of her other books; I can’t wait to see if her other works are equally nuanced. The World We Found is a page-turner, and though it looks simple on the surface, I was thrilled to discover its inclusion of so many themes. It’s a book that had me thinking for days after I’d turned the last page.
The World We Found was released on January 3, 2012 by Harper Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.