Title and Author(s): Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Source: Shipment of Advanced Reader Copies (ARC) which arrived at Harris County Public Library
Summary: Subhash and Udayan Mitra are two brothers who grew up in Post-Partition Calcutta. Subhash, older by a mere fifteen months, and Udayan look alike. However, they’re very different people and have rather opposite destinies. In the 1960s, Udayan’s political fervor rises while Subhash seeks a scientific education in Rhode Island. In the midst of his studies, Subhash receives notice that Udayan was killed near their childhood home. Subhash returns to Calcutta to find the fractured Mitra family and Udayan’s widow, philosophy student Gauri haunted and stuck in those last moments of Udayan’s life. Subhash’s reaction and handling sets an extreme course for the lives Subhash, Gauri, and Mitra family.
One Thing I Learned from this book: Previously I’d heard of the Partition and of the Bengali people. However, I didn’t know much about the Partition of Bengal.
What I Liked: I was mesmerized by Lahiri’s writing style yet again. It’s as though she’s a Rembrandt of words! The way she understands her characters truly enthralls me. I was astonished by what a loving and caring man Subhash was. I’ve yet to visit India or Rhode Island but I have a clear idea of these settings.
What I Disliked: The story itself made me very weepy. I wanted to throttle characters. Most often, it was Gauri! However, Mr. and Mrs. Mitra weren’t my favorites, either. Also, it would’ve helped me if each section/chapter started with a date (at least the year) for when the action of the ensuing section took place.
Rainbow Rating: Orange – Restricted from those under age 17
You might also like:
- Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake
- Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth
- Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections
- Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin
- Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies
- Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones
For more, check out the following sites:
I recall going with my mom and her friends to see The Joy Luck Club which was based on Amy Tan’s bestselling novel of the same name. While I heard afterwards that the movie greatly differed from the book which inspired it, I looked forward to reading the book someday. Later on, as I read Tan’s books, I became riveted by these relationships. Tan really shines when it comes to rendering a portrait of the mother-daughter relationship.
As the Literature Resource Center says:
Novelist Amy Tan was born in 1952, in Oakland, California, to Chinese immigrant parents. Her father, John Tan, emigrated to the United States in 1947 and worked as an engineer before he became a Baptist minister. Tan’s mother, Daisy, came to the United States after her first marriage crumbled due to spousal abuse; although she had three children by her former husband, Chinese law at that time would not permit a divorced woman to gain custody of her offspring and Daisy kept her first family a secret from her American-born children for many years. It was only after she lost her oldest son, Peter, and her husband to brain cancer that Daisy would reveal her past. Still a teen at the time of the death of both her father and brother, Tan grew up with her younger brother in her mother’s home, a fact that is reflected in the primacy of mother-daughter relationships within her fiction.
Of course, these elements rise to the surface in Tan’s writings. It’s been a while since I’ve read The Joy Luck Club or The Kitchen God’s Wife. Still, these characters and situations remain with me. They became the standard in my future reading. Tan’s writing has been rather formative in my reading life.
Please check out:
- National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – Jhumpa Lahiri
- National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – Tite Kubo – Creator of Bleach
My first memory of Jhumpa Lahiri was of the author talking about her new novel The Namesake with TV hostess Martha Stewart back in 2003. Lahiri’s description of Bengali immigrants having a son in Boston compelled me to request this book at HCPL. When her novel arrived, I could hardly put it down to eat or sleep.
According to the Gale Literary Database, Lahiri:
Born 1967, in London, England; daughter of a librarian and a teacher; married Alberto Vourvoulias (a journalist), January 15, 2001; children: two. Education: Barnard College, B.A.; Boston University, M.A. (English), M.A. (creative writing), M.A. (comparative literature and the arts), Ph.D. Addresses: Home: New York, NY.
As I’m not a big fan of short stories, I held off on reading her other books for years. Nonetheless, I gave in and was pleased with both of these collections. My only complaint was that I wanted to know more about these characters.
So, why am I making such a fuss? These characters, most of them of Bengali descent, are so different from me but I can identify with them. That’s Lahiri’s magic. Just give her a try and you’ll be mesmerized as well.
For Candice’s profile on Tite Kubo, check out her post “National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – Tite Kubo – Creator of Bleach“.
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:
Kwok, J. (2010). Girl in translation. (Uncorrected Proof). New York: Riverhead Books. 9781594487569
When I attended a meeting at HCPL’s Administrative Office, many uncorrected proofs awaited new readers. I picked up half a dozen that day, including Girl in Translation. As I didn’t want to lose a library book between here and England, I took Girl in Translation with me.
Kimberly Chang and her mother leave behind Hong Kong to pursue the American Dream sometime in the 1980s. Since they know very little English, the Changs depend on Kimberly’s Aunt Paula. Aunt Paula installs them in a Brooklyn slum and in her sweatshop. Soon, Kimberly leads two lives – stellar student by day and Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. She struggles through squalor, deprivation, and a crushing crush on an underachieving boy at the factory; Kimberly also navigates the social strata in a preppy white world. Bridging cultural and generational gaps, Kimberly must be strong to “make it.”
Kwok clearly draws her characters, especially Kimberly and her mother. My favorite character was Mrs. Chang because she was an empathetic person. I despised Aunt Paula. Another amusing thing Kwok writes is how Kimberly hears certain English words. I won’t remark on what Kimberly actually asked her teacher for when she needed an eraser.
What I didn’t like about this story was the ending. Most of all, what happened to Kimberly’s best friend Annette in the conclusion? I missed Annette because I considered her an impetus in Kimberly’s education. While I found the deprivation believable, I couldn’t buy some of the other things. I’m sad to say I really didn’t enjoy this book.
Two Out of Five Pearls
Places : Hong Kong, New York City,
You might also like:
- Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
- The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
- Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
- The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan
- Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
- Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok | Word Lily
- Book Review: Girl in Translation « The Joys of Reading Blog
- Life Wordsmith – Book Reviews and Poems: Girl in Translation : Jean Kwok