From the internationally bestselling, Pulitzer Prize—winning author, a superbly crafted new work of fiction: eight stories that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand.
In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father, who carefully tends the earth of her garden, where he and his grandson form a special bond. But he’s harboring a secret from his daughter, a love affair he’s keeping all to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a husband’s attempt to turn an old friend’s wedding into a romantic getaway weekend with his wife takes a dark, revealing turn as the party lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a sister 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 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. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (222)
I love Alice Munro's short stories, and I don't want to snub her, but Lahiri's writing is that rare sort that comes along every fifty years or so. She is a master. I felt palpable anxiety in the story that dealt with alcoholism - that was one of my favorites, but that in no way touches the last three short stories of the book, which are connected. Not only did I cry upon finishing them (I read a lot, but I RARELY cry over fiction), but I reopened the book and re-read them immediately (that, truthfully, has NEVER happened).
I can't wait to read everything she's ever written. Could not recommend this book more highly.
strong start, fizzled out
I very much enjoyed The Namesake and this short story collection starts out strong. The first story, about the father and daughter is an understated jewel of emotion and things left unsaid. The story of the sister and her alcoholic brother seems real and jolting. Then the story of the intercultural couple starts getting a bit mushy. Around the middle, the story of Paul and "Sang" is just horrible! It's like one of those Saturday Night Live skits where the writers have no idea how to end it so they just go on and on ad nauseum until it fizzles out. It's hard to believe actually that it's the same writer who wrote the tightly crafted first story.
I'm about ready to give up on this collection but I've heard good things about the last trio of loosely connected stories so perhaps I'll tough it out. But I expected better from a talented author like Lahiri. A lot of readers have mentioned that she should write about other than Bengalis. But think about it: white authors write mostly about white people, Chinese about Chinese experience, etc. But I do agree that her Bengalis should be other than academics living mainly around Boston, as that is getting rather old.
I just read the first story unaccustomed earth.. it was so good.Simple yet spectacular, felt so good, refreshing, relaxing.After namesake, this was the second book of hers I've read and she does not disappoint, like vintage wine,the first story is so good
A must read for anyone who loves books!
Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of short stories that is written about Bengali Indian immigrants but speaks to everyone.If you want to read some short stories about the tragedies and joys, the shortcomings and strengths of the human spirit, check this book out.Even though it's about a certain slice of the population, I think everyone can find something in this book to which they can relate.
Lahiri has an interesting story-telling style that is comprised of a disproportionate amount of narrative to dialogue.She spends her time telling her readers what the characters are doing and thinking and feeling, relieving her characters of the majority of that responsibility.In Lahiri's case, however, she has her craft down to such an art that we look forward to the narrative, to the long paragraphs and her authoritative disclosure of her characters' state of mind.Every word is measured and weighed, included only because it's absolutely necessary.And yet, despite this sense of being careful, there is a richness to Lahiri's work that makes one think of enjoying a really good meal at an expensive restaurant that is worth every penny.
Of the first five stories in Unaccustomed Earth, the most striking is "Only Goodness" about a sister-brother pair who deal with the issue of alcoholism in a heartbreaking way.Lahiri writes intimately about the addiction, and the final pages of the story make the reader shake his or her head in disbelief all the while wanting to know what might happen next.As is the nature of the genre, however, we don't get to know any more about the characters than what Lahiri chooses to reveal.And like the hallmark of any good book, we are left wanting to know more.
The section entitled "Hema and Kaushik" includes the trio of stories at the end of the book, going into the details of the title characters and their experiences in growing up as second-generation Bengalis and first-generation Americans.Their lives converge at one point, deviate from each other, and then intersect once again.Their end is happy and then again isn't; they find pieces of themselves in one another in that all-encompassing experience of being the children of immigrants.Yet despite that common experience, they suffer from the same shortcomings that all humans do and those shortcomings prevent them from finding the happiness for which they'd both hoped.
Because of my own cultural heritage I don't have an outsider's view of Lahiri's works (and because of my kinship with them I'm partial to anything she writes,) but I have no doubt that to a certain extent anyone could find elements of their own lives in these stories.In tackling the immigrant experience, Lahiri has managed to spotlight the human experience.For that very reason--and also to marvel at the beauty of her prose--Unaccustomed Earth is a must read for anyone.
A perfect "10" -- have to settle for 5 stars
To be brutally honest, short stories are a genre I usually avoid.I find myself frustrated with having to start and stop the story and my (usual) inability to get into the flow and inhabit the fictional world.When it comes to Jhumpa Lahiri, none of the above holds true and I will read anything she writes, in any genre.This collection of eight short stories is just as fabulous as "Interpreter of Maladies" and her full-length novel "The Namesake".Three books, three knockout winners in my opinion.
The first five stories are independent of each other and the final three are interwoven with the characters.Each story typically runs 40 pages so there is enough time to fully develop these characters and she does it so well.Telling the stories of second generation Bengalis, Ms. Lahiri explores all aspects of being immigrants and the children of immigrants but particularly shines as it relates to the conflict between the parents looking back to India and the children looking forward to the United States.Each story is an absolute jewel that creates a world where the reader can enter, enjoy and then exit all within the span of relatively few pages.Very few authors can do this to my satisfaction and she is the best I have found.
Outstanding book and incredibly talented author overall.
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