If Today Be Sweet by Thrity Umrigar
(First let me just say that I hope you all had a wonderful, turkey and gluten-free pie filled Thanksgiving!)
So many times I’ve heard or read about the idea of going out into nature to experience a feeling of awe and reverence about our place in the universe. It’s not hard to understand why-standing amidst the clouds on a mountain, gazing out at the endless and hazy horizon of the ocean or hearing the rush of the wind in the woods during a solitary walk are all perfect ways to feel small in this great big world-a both humbling and empowering experience.
Where am I going with this you might ask? Well the other day I went to my favorite “Grande Bibliothèque” (Big Library) in Montréal and experienced this exact same feeling of wonder-not in nature, but surrounded by books.
Without a time constraint, I took the time to wander aimlessly through all of the sections and aisles of this massive library. I passed books about puffins and the history of tattoos, personal finance after divorce and the art of cooking with garlic. I skimmed over novels, religious texts, ethnic fairy tales and big heavy photography books on everything from the hairstyles of Africa to castles in France. During this journey I was struck by the overwhelming revelation that no matter what, I will never, ever be able to read even just 1% of all the books that exist. At this moment I felt absolute wonder at how big and amazing our world really is. Forget mountains-all you need is a trip to your local library or bookstore to feel small in this universe!
Considering we will never be able to read everything it makes the novels and books we do choose to read all that more precious-each of us embodying a unique and personal library documenting our time here on Earth. Uh oh, there I go with philosophical talk again- I promise I’m done with deep thoughts for the day! So let’s move on to one of my most recent good reads, the novel If Today Be Sweet by Indian born author Thrity Umrigar.
Where and what is home? Is home the city of your childhood? The place where the majority of your loved ones reside? The city where you work and own a house? Is home a tangible place filled with memories or a living and changing thing based on your current emotions? If Today Be Sweet is at its core a story of one woman’s search for home. The novel also begs the complex question of who we are at our core when all of the “labels” and roles we’ve used during our life (such as “wife” or “homemaker”) are ripped away.
When the main character Tehmina finds herself a widow after a loving marriage of many years (don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away-you know this from page 1!) she is forced to revaluate her place and role in the world without the centering compass of her husband. A native of India, she finds herself torn between her beloved city of Bombay and Ohio, the adopted homeland of her son who immigrated to the U.S. and married an American woman.
This novel is at its core a study of family relationships (which is, as you probably know by now, my favorite type of story). While reading you truly experience the different emotions and perspectives of husbands and wives, mother and daughter in-laws, grandparents and grand-kids, neighbors and friends. What’s more, because the novel revolves around an interracial family (with the Indian son having moved to the U.S. and marrying an American), you gain an interesting and insightful perspective on the role of culture in families and relationships-a must-read for anyone with immigrant or interracial roots.
Do not pick up this book expecting a lot of action or adventure-in fact, not much happens in the story at all. Instead, savor this novel for its intimate exploration of family life and identity. I can guarantee that you will walk away with a new perspective on your own life, family and relationships.
To purchase your own copy of If Today Be Sweet from Amazon, click here.
(If you haven’t already, you also MUST read this author’s earlier novel The Space Between Us-this is one of my all-time favorites which I will have to discuss a different day!)