Amy Kauffman was raised in a reform Jewish family in Washington DC, but her parents’ recent Orthodox conversion has created strain in their relationship. After Amy marries Sunil, the Ohio-born son of Indian immigrants from Nairobi and a doctoral candidate in moral philosophy at Harvard, the couple withholds the news of their mixed marriage from both their parents. When the revelation of a family secret on Sunil’s side compels this marital news to emerge, the couple travels together first to DC then to Nairobi to confront their respective families. While Sunil struggles to complete his dissertation, he and Amy both wrestle with fundamental ethical questions as they strive to figure out how to make their mixed race, interfaith marriage work.
The Limits of the World
January 1, 2013
Courtesy of Jennifer Acker
- The community of merchant-class Indians portrayed in this novel have been called “the Jews of Africa.” What do you think that means? How is their experience similar to those of Jews in diaspora?
- The history of Indians in East Africa is recounted in this book, in part, by the grandfather through a series of transcribed audio recordings in which he is talking to his two grandsons, Sunil and Bimal. What do you think the grandfather is trying to convey to his grandchildren? Why is this act of recording history important to him?
- There are four points of view in this book. Whose point of view did you enjoy being in the most, and why? Not necessarily in terms of liking or not liking the character, but in becoming deeply acquainted with them in a pleasurably intimate way.
- When Amy meets Sunil, her parents have undergone a conversion to Orthodox Judaism that Amy finds confusing and disturbing. How does this event and Amy’s reaction to it shape her and Sunil’s relationship?
- How would you describe the friendship that develops between Urmila and Maddy? Why is each important to the other? What universal aspects of women’s experiences stand out to you in this book?
- What is the most changed aspect of Amy and Sunil’s joint life when they return from Kenya?
- What is your experience of and take away from Urmila and Sunil’s final scene in DC toward the end of the book?
- The book opens with Urmila rearranging the wooden animals in her shop and ends with her watching animals during a safari. What is the importance of animals in this book?
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