Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Review: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

On the jacket:

Knopf Canada is proud to welcome this bestselling, Pulitzer Prize—winning author with eight dazzling stories that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life. 

In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father who carefully tends her garden–where she later unearths evidence of a love affair he is keeping to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a couple’s romantic getaway weekend takes a dark turn at a party that lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a woman eager to give her younger brother the perfect childhood she never had is overwhelmed by guilt, anguish and anger when his alcoholism threatens her family. And in “Hema and Kaushik,” a trio of linked stories–a luminous, intensely compelling elegy of life, death, love and fate–we follow the lives of a girl and boy who, one fateful winter, share a house in Massachusetts. They travel from innocence to experience on separate, sometimes painful paths, until destiny brings them together again years later in Rome. 

Unaccustomed Earth is rich with the author’s signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is the work of a writer at the peak of her powers. 


I am not even sure if I should be reviewing this book. I mean, if you have read Lahiri before, and I tell you Unaccustomed Earth is crap, it's not like you are going to believe me, are you? Well, then why bother to make up things, instead get to the point. 

Unaccustomed Earth is like any other book by Lahiri. Rustic, home bound, simple, middle class and something all of us can identify with at certain levels. The book is a set of short stories; and I absolutely love them. What a novelist says in about 300 pages, a short story writer says in about 10-12 pages. The challenge to deliver the same amount of emotions and events in a short story is demanding, and very few authors meet it with finesse. 

Lahiri has proved her eloquence as an established writer, repeatedly, and with Unaccustomed Earth, as well, she does justice to her reputation. The book is divided into two sections. Section One has five short stories: Unaccustomed Earth, Hell-Heaven, A Choice of Accommodations, Only Goodness and Nobody's Business. Section II has three short stories: Once in a Life Times, Year's End and Going Ashore, revolving around Hema and Kaushik.

On the flipside, the book indicates that Lahiri is more comfortable writing about her comfort zone, Bengali Americans. Themes do seem repetitive. Lahiri's writing is smooth, from the heart and for the pravasi Bengali in me, her stories have a lot to identify with.

My rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

1 comment:

  1. Hema and Kaushik are bestest and how she made my heart wrench in silence in her last story


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