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When Remy Wadia left India for the United States, he carried his resentment of his cold and inscrutable mother with him and has kept his distance from her. Years later, he returns to Bombay, planning to adopt a baby from a young pregnant girl—and to see his elderly mother again before it is too late. She is in the hospital, has stopped talking, and seems to have given up on life.
Struck with guilt for not realizing just how ill she had become, Remy devotes himself to helping her recover and return home. But one day in her apartment he comes upon an old photograph that demands explanation. As shocking family secrets surface, Remy finds himself reevaluating his entire childhood and his relationship to his parents, just as he is on the cusp of becoming a parent himself. Can Remy learn to forgive others for their human frailties, or is he too wedded to his sorrow and anger over his parents’ long-ago decisions?
Surprising, devastating, and ultimately a story of redemption and healing still possible between a mother and son, The Museum of Failures is a tour de force from one of our most elegant storytellers about the mixed bag of love and regret. It is also, above all, a much-needed reminder that forgiveness comes from empathy for others.
After the first death, there is no other.
The Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden, was a collection of failed products and services. It now operates as a traveling exhibition throughout the world.
Many thanks to my dear friend and fellow writer Sarah Willis, for her careful reading of my first draft and for a vital idea, which I promptly and shamelessly stole.
Deep gratitude to my agent, Gail Hochman, for her painstakingly detailed comments. Gail, you are truly the midwife to this book.
Profound thanks to the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, for the fellowship that gave me the time to write this novel.
Thank you, Kathy Pories, for your keen observations and edits.
Much gratitude to Team Algonquin, for shepherding this novel from manuscript to published work.
Thank you to my dear friends, too numerous to name here, but too beloved to not acknowledge. We have sustained each other through the dark days of the pandemic and boosted one another’s spirits during that lonely and isolating time. I hope we can finally emerge and resume friendship the way it’s supposed to be—with long walks on fall days, with glasses of wine and platters of food, with conversations about love and life and politics and art.
Eternal love and gratitude to my family, in the US and in India. My life would be meaningless if you weren’t in it.
- "Family secrets are constellations made of falling stars. When scattered across the vast expanse of our lives, they lead us, guide us, but often in the wrong direction. With Thrity Umrigar’s signature blend of emotional depth and compassionate storytelling, The Museum of Failures is a poignant and profound exploration of what happens when someone’s entire life, their entire journey, has been spent off-course. I feel this book. You will too."—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of The Many Daughters of Afong Moy
“There's no powder keg like a family secret. And when it explodes, nothing in the past is ever as it was, and nothing in the future is ever the same. The Museum of Failures is a symphony of secrets and lies, love and hate, regret and forgiveness, but more than that, the unraveling of everything one holds dear to find something more precious and elusive: oneself. Powerful and engrossing.”
—Marlon James Booker Prize winning Author of Moon Witch, Spider King
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2023 by Goodreads, Ms., We Are Bookish, SheReads, & BookBub
"Wrenching and uplifting, lighthearted and profound, The Museum of Failures is a suspenseful, beautifully plotted tribute to the complicated yet steadfast love between parents and children."
—Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning
"The Museum of Failures is a compassionate and insightful exploration of judgment, forgiveness, and understanding. A skilled chronicler of family secrets, Thrity Umrigar reveals the reverberation that decisions can have over generations and the impact of distance, both geographical and psychological, on the relationship of one mother and son."
—Lisa Ko, author of National Book Award finalist The Leavers
- “An expert storyteller, Thirty Umrigar knows how to weave a tale of family secrets, relationships, tradition and acceptance. Layered and captivating.”—Ms.
- “This is a beautifully wrought novel about the complicated relationships between parents and children, the secrets we keep — and those we reveal.”—B&N
- “The story of the Wadia family is a sensitive exploration of love in its different forms—romantic, maternal, filial, platonic—and forgiveness. Umrigar’s fluid prose and well-wrought characters capture the milieu of the Parsi community past and present. Paired with the emotionally demanding story line, this is a compelling read.”—Booklist
- “[Umrigar] creates interesting characters and complex relationships, builds thematic tension and narrative suspense, and delivers emotionally resonant moments at just the right pace… [A] rich, heartfelt novel. This is a touching story about what it really means to grow up and into an authentic life.”—Kirkus Reviews
- “[A] rich and emotionally gripping story about familial love and the destructive power of secrets... Umrigar continues to impress.”—Publishers Weekly
- "A beautifully written, heart-warming, and welcoming glimpse into the Parsi community and the complications of family.”——Jessica Trotter, Capital Area District Libraries, Mich., Shelf Awareness
- On Sale
- Sep 26, 2023
- Page Count
- 368 pages
- Algonquin Books