Eight storieslonger and more emotionally complex than any Lahiri 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.
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 with Jhumpa 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.
After her mothers death, Rumas father retired from the pharmaceutical company where he had worked for many decades and began traveling in Europe, a continent hed never seen. In the past year he had visited France, Holland, and most recently Italy. They were package tours, traveling in the company of strangers, riding by bus through the countryside, each meal and museum and hotel prearranged. He was gone for two, three, sometimes four weeks at a time. When he was away Ruma did not hear from him. Each time, she kept the printout of his flight information behind a magnet on the door of the refrigerator, and on the days he was scheduled to fly she watched the news, to make sure there hadnt been a plane crash anywhere in the world.
Occasionally a postcard would arrive in Seattle, where Ruma and Adam and their son Akash lived. The postcards showed the facades of churches, stone fountains, crowded piazzas, terra-cotta rooftops mellowed by late ...
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).
Full Review (682 words).
The Origins of Sindoor
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 ...
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