Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth


Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri | LibraryThing

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

Song: Nicola Conte – Dossier Omega – YouTube

Setting: Cambridge Massachusetts, Seattle, India, Italy, Thailand

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Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells


Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen | LibraryThing

Allen, S. A. (2007). Garden spells. New York: Random House Large Print. 9780739327432

Back in February, I attended a Reader’s Advisory workshop. The speaker, Neal Wyatt, sang the praises of Garden Spells. Then, I heard this book was the alchemy of Practical Magic and Like Water for Chocolate. After hearing the rave reviews of my coworkers, I checked out Garden Spells from HCPL.

The Waverley women possess special abilities. In their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina, the Waverlys’ apple tree bears magical fruit of magical properties. Their garden yields unique, edible flowers. At this time, 34-year-old Claire Waverly embraces the family traits and runs a lucrative catering business. On the other hand, her younger sister, Sydney wants little to do with family inheritance. Sydney left behind her hometown.

However, Sydney returns to Bascom, bringing her daughter, Bay with her. In Bascom, Sydney faces the ghosts of the past, determined to make a better future for Bay.  

Reading Garden Spells was a true joy for me. Sarah Addison Allen rendered a beautiful picture of the Waverlys and the Bascom community. Even villainess Emma is relateable and Allen deals with her kindly. I enjoyed the Waverlys more than the Owens sisters in Practical Magic but strong similarities can’t be denied.  

Four Out of Five Pearls

Song: YouTube – Strange Magic by ELO (Electric Light Orchestra)

Places : North Carolina, Seattle

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Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet


Ford, J. (2009). Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet: A novel. New York: Ballantine Books. 9780345505330

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford | LibraryThing

I glimpsed a favorable review of this book in one of those professional journals we’re expected to read at work. With my interest piqued, I requested Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet through HCPL.

The book alternates between two different time periods. In 1986, Henry Lee approaches the Panama Hotel in Seattle just as the new owner brings to light items which Japanese Americans stowed before their evacuation to the internment camps. As a recent widower, Henry’s reverie is jolted and he springs into action, baffling his grown son Marty.

The other time period is 1942, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Twelve-year old Henry lives under the thumb of his very Chinese father. His parents no longer permit him to communicate in their tongue, insisting he must speak English always. Henry is on scholarship at the white kid school and he works in the cafeteria. Here, he meets the lovely Japanese-American Keiko Okabe. Their bond transcends ethnicity as they enjoy jazz and folks that don’t look exactly like themselves.

I enjoyed this story for the most part. Ford brought Henry, Marty, and Keiko to life brilliantly. The Seattle Jazz scene also fascinated me. It’s also easy to see what motivates the characters, even Henry’s nationalist father.

My only snide remark regards Marty participating in an Internet support group in his grieving. . . in 1986! Say what? I realize Marty’s a smart guy but this is too much of a stretch.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Song: YouTube – I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good

Places : Seattle, Washington State, Idaho, New York City, China, Japan

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