Lahiri, J. (2008). Unaccustomed earth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 9780307265739
Reasons for Reading : I’m not a big fan of short stories. However, as I’ve enjoyed Lahiri’s The Namesake, I pulled Unaccustomed Earth off the shelf at the HCPL branch where I work.
Summary: Lahiri tells eight stories of first generation Bengali Americans. All these stories deal with the ups and downs of families and relationships.
Unaccustomed Earth is broken into two parts. Part I is comprised of the first five stories. Among them are “Unaccustomed Earth,” “Hell-Heaven,” “A Choice of Accommodations,” “Only Goodness,” and “Nobody’s Business.” The book is the namesake of “Unaccustomed Earth” tells of Ruma, a young mother in Seattle. When Ruma hosts her visiting widower father, she prepares for him to live with them. While her father tends to her garden and bonds with her son, he has his own ideas about what he wants to do. “Hell-Heaven” confronts the topics of social strata in both old and new worlds. “A Choice of Accommodations” shares the nearly failed attempt of a husband to turn an old high school friend’s wedding into a romantic weekend for his wife. Lahiri tells of a sister who doesn’t know what to do about her alcoholic brother in “Only Goodness.” Part I ends with “Nobody’s Business,” a lovesick grad student watches his lovely Bengali roommate’s life implode.
Part II is called “Hema and Kaushik.” These three stories – “Once in a Lifetime,” “Year’s End,” and “Going Ashore” focus on two characters – Hema and Kaushik. Teenage Kaushik and his family stay with young Hema’s family. While they go on to lead very seperate lives, circumstances reunite them twenty years later.
What I Liked : Lahiri’s writing style compels me to continue reading her work. I found myself empathizing with the jerkiest of jerks and understanding their plights. Lahiri’s talent shines from within Unaccustomed Earth.
What I Disliked : By the time I’m absorbed and enthralled in the story, it has ended! I especially wanted to read more about Hema and Kaushik.
Four Out of Five Pearls
Setting: Cambridge Massachusetts, Seattle, India, Italy, Thailand
You might also like:
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
- The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
- The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
- Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
- Drown by Junot Díaz
- People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
For more on Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth, check out the following sites: