Saturday, June 27, 2009
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Did anyone read Interpreter of Maladies? It's been a few years since I have, but I remember liking it. I also remember some of the stories were really sad. Although each dealt with a family or character that was either born in India, or born in America to first generation Indian immigrants, many of the themes were universal.
Unaccustomed Earth is the second collection of short stories that Jhumpa Lahiri has published. She also wrote a novel in between, that I haven't read yet.
I really liked these stories. Again there are some tragic parts. In fact, the last three stories are "part two" and all relate to two characters, and culminate with them being reunited after 30 or so years. I wish these had been the first three, because I didn't like the ending and thought it was a sad way to finish up a book.
So the things I did like. Lahiri has a great way of making her short stories feel like a novel. They don't feel like a chapter or a short snippet. Each has complex characters, most of whom I liked, and thought provoking ideas and themes. Some were more relatable than others, and again they are all about familes who have immigrated to the United States at some point from India. I have to say it did make me want to learn more about the culture, but the importance is not limited to a sort of culture study. Not at all. I loved that I could sit and read a complete story in one sitting, but I would be just as excited to start the next one.
These are well-written stories. I want to describe them as smart, but I'm not sure what a smart story should be.
One theme that I liked was how the third generation, the grand children, seemed to help bridge the gap. Not just grandchildren I guess, but children in general. Most of the stories have a sweet element even if they also have a lot of sadness.
There was one particular part that sadly sounded familiar:
He's talking about how he and his wife's energy is now "devoted not to doing things together but devising ways so that each could have some time alone, she taking the girls so that he could go running hin the park on her days off, or vice versa, so that she could browse in a bookstore" It goes on, but you get the point.
I highly recommend this book. I hope you'll like it too.
(Oh and there are a few moments of PG-13.)