Fresh off a vacation, Thrity Umrigar answered questions from readers who posted, plus she sent word to you about her next book. See what she had to say.
From reader Katherine Peña-Perilla: I would love to know what happened to Sera and if she would ever tell her daughter Viraf’s secret or if she kept the secret and if in keeping the secret does that make her more powerful over Viraf or powerless?
Thrity Umrigar: I don’t think Sera could ever tell her daughter what she knows as it would devastate her. Now that she’s about to become a new mom would only make Sera hold her tongue even more. So Sera is doomed to keep this secret festering in her own heart.
From reader Stephanie Ziebarth: Please tell us more about some of the key symbolism you used within the story—for example, with the sea and the balloon man. Also, do you hope to educate your readers more about various aspects of Indian culture within your writing, or were those simply the cultures and settings that were natural to your story?
I think the balloon seller represents a kind of grace and victory over hardship, to Bhima. He is her ideal of how to live a life with as much dignity as you can muster. Since he’s essentially a stranger to her, it’s easy for her to project her beliefs and longings onto him. He is a mystical, mysterious creature to her.
From reader Lisa Foster: I found the end of the book hard to read, not so much the release of the balloons at the sea, but the banishment of Bhima from Sera’s household. Was that part difficult to write? I desperately wanted Sera to be more compassionate, and wanted something more for Bhima for all the loyalty she offered and and the pain she suffered, but I’m sure that would not have been realistic. The beach scene at the end was a good way for the reader to know that Bhima would survive this, as she had survived so much before. I loved this book, and am now on my third by Umrigar—keep writing!
Thank you, Lisa. You’ve answered your own question—a happier, more just ending would have not been realistic. I thought that expecting Sera to turn her back on her own kin—to destroy her pregnant daughter’s happiness because of her loyalty to a servant—was not how it would play out in the real world. And so the ending wasn’t difficult to write, in that it felt inevitable. Any other ending would’ve been a betrayal and compromised the integrity of the story and as a writer, that emotional integrity is very important to me.
Good questions, all. Thanks so much for taking the time. FYI, I have a new novel coming out January 3. It’s called The World We Found. I’m going to update my website soon to post a picture of the jacket, so check it in a few weeks. My publisher is very excited about this novel, so I hope you will give it a read.