20 September, 2013

#BookReview :: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

"Everyone has their secrets. In her stunning new collection of stories, Jhumpa Lahiri gently lifts the veil to reveal how even the most ordinary lives have their dramas and tragedies and then, as gently, lets it fall back down again. A middle aged man discovers that the death of his wife opens up his world in unexpected ways— his daughter worries that she will now have to look after him but finds that the tables have, in fact, turned; a housewife falls in love with a younger family friend—her child ascertains her secret many years on; a son is revulsed by his father’s second marriage to a young woman who has none of the sophistication and elegance of his mother; a sister tries to save her brother from alcoholism and finds herself rejecting him like everyone else. A young man and woman whose lives cross over the years, finally and fatedly fall in love. Unaccustomed Earth returns to the terrain—the heart of family life and the immigrant experience— that Jhumpa Lahiri has made utterly hers, but her themes, this time around, have darkened and deepened. Poised, nuanced, deeply moving, here is a superb collection: the finest she has written yet."

After Interpreter of Maladies, this is the second Jhumpa Lahiri book that I have picked up. Yes, at the risk of raising eyebrows from one and many, I have to admit that I haven’t read The Namesake yet.

The first story in the book is ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ and I was lost in this book right from the first page and there’s no use in pretending otherwise. The common theme in all these stories is that they narrate about the NRI lives and their everyday nuisance. Be it a mother daughter bonding, or the relationship between a man and his granddaughter or the unwanted helping hand of a well-wishing friend… again it may be about love or friendship or jealousy or abandonment... The stories visit different aspects of relationships and emotions with such a unique perspective that as a reader I questioned myself about a lot of it.

Vivid characters live among these pages – characters you will recognize and characters you may even empathize with. They aren’t extraordinary in their lives by any means, but it’s the author’s projection of them that make them seem extraordinary. In any other setting, I would have perhaps called for a bit more strength from some of the characters, but in these cases they were portrayed just right. Each trial and accomplishment of these characters felt like my own trials and accomplishments – such was the power of Ms.Lahiri’s prose.

I have had a couple of people telling me that they were a bit disappointed that some of the stories turned out to be depressing and so a word of advice for those who are yet to pick this book up (if there’s anyone’s left at all) -- Please do not expect the stories to be all sunshine and rainbow. The stories are closer to reality than fiction and in real life there’s often no happily ever after.

Buy this Book

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