From the internationally best-selling, Pulitzer Prizewinning author, a superbly crafted new work of fiction: eight storieslonger and more emotionally complex than any she has yet writtenthat take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.
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 hes harboring a secret from his daughter, a love affair hes keeping all to himself. In A Choice of Accommodations, a husbands attempt to turn an old friends 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 storiesa luminous, intensely compelling elegy of life, death, love, and fatewe 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.
Unaccustomed Earth is rich withJhumpa Lahiris signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom, and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is a masterful, dazzling work of a writer at the peak of her powers.
Lahiri does not demand much from her readers. She does not ask that we stand back and admire her prose—no show-stopping literary antics here. She does not ask that we contend with unlikable characters. If her women make mistakes, they are well-intentioned ones, free of malice or selfishness or immaturity. She does not ask us to ride a melodramatic rollercoaster of a plot, for her stories are quiet and ordinary. Her distanced narration pads the impact of the stories, so that we read about many of the events without directly experiencing them. She simply asks that we pay attention and observe the details of her characters' worlds with as much care as she takes to portray them, trusting her to reveal their significance at the right emotional moment. (Reviewed by Amy Reading).
The author's ability to flesh out completely even minor characters in every story, and especially in this trio of stories, is what will keep readers invested in the work until its heartbreaking conclusion.
Starred Review. Lahiri's stories of exile, identity, disappointment and maturation evince a spare and subtle mastery that has few contemporary equals.
An eye for detail, ear for dialogue and command of family dynamics distinguish this uncommonly rich collection.
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
A Chekhovian sense of loss blows through these new stories: a reminder of Ms. Lahiri's appreciation of the wages of time and mortality and her understanding too of the missed connections that plague her husbands and wives, parents and children, lovers and friends.
The Washington Post - Lily Tuck
Lahiri is far too accomplished and empathic a writer to relax her gaze; she excels at uncovering character and choosing detail.
The New York Times Book Review - Liesl Schillinger
Reading her stories is like watching time-lapse nature videos of different plants, each with its own inherent growth cycle, breaking through the soil, spreading into bloom or collapsing back to earth.
With supreme and economical skill, Jhumpa Lahiri uses only a
few cultural signifiers to situate her characters in space
and time. Almost all of the mothers in her stories, the
women from the older generation who emigrate from India to
the United States with their husbands, wear vermilion powder
in their hair. Called sindoor, this powder is applied to the
part of a Hindu bride's hair by her husband during their
wedding ceremony, and is thereafter worn to signify her
married status. Widows typically do not wear sindoor.
In this way, the meaning of sindoor is much simpler than
that of the bindi, the bright red dot that many Indian women
wear on their foreheads. The bindi can be worn by women
regardless of age and marital status, and thus functions
more like a decoration, albeit one with spiritual meaning as
the bindi is placed over the sixth chakra, or energy point
- between and just above the eyes, often referred...
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