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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Unaccustomed Earth

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

This book, from the author of 'Interpreter of Maladies' and 'The Namesake' is one of the nicest short story collections that I've read so far. It's hard to pick which one is better, 'Interpreter of Maladies' or 'Unaccustomed Earth', both of which are collection of short stories, but I still favour this one a little more.

Lahiri is one of the finest Indian authors that I've come across. She has something new to offer in every book and every story of her's. Her style of writing is very unique (with her attention to detail she creates a lasting image in your mind), thought provoking and gripping; none of her stories have a perfect ending, it leaves you thinking at the end... always, and that's what brings it close to reality coz more often than not, you dont see a 'perfect end' to situations in life.

Unaccustomed Earth, is again a set of 8 short stories intrically woven with their themes...Bengali families who have migrated to US of A. That's the author's focus in all her books, but each story has something different to offer.... Be it a daughter's dilemma whether to give shelter to her father after her mother passed away, discovering some secrets during the time he comes to visit her; or a married woman falling in love with a stranger who comes to stay with them and becomes a family friend, only to be discovered by her daugther much later in life; or a sister trying to help her alcohol addicted brother who is rejected by his family and the society but at the end starts doing it herself, Lahiri has mastered the intricacies of human emotions and put it across in the most simple and subtle way.

The first part is a set of 5 distinct stories and the second part, is a set of 3 intertwined stories forming a trilogy - where two people (Hema and Kaushik) meet at different stages in their lives - during childhood, in their teenage and later in their 30's. The ending is very touching, though somewhat contrived.

The only criticism would be that she tends to get a little melodramatic sometimes in her narrations and becoz of the only central theme she uses - NRI bengali families who are academic over-achievers (everyone is a PhD), economically prosperious and always in mixed marriages, the stories sometimes seem to lack variations.

Nevertheless, I still rate this book 4.5/5 and highly recommend it. It is well worth the time...

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