Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book Review: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, writes books that pack an emotional punch. Her writing is flawless and her stories are wonderful windows into the human psyche and experience. Each of the eight stories in this collection is complex and multi-layered. Lahiri has an amazing ability to tell a rich and well developed tale within the limited confines of a short story. Each story vividly, accurately and powerfully exposes the characters’ humanity, foibles, loves, desires, heartaches and triumphs. Lahiri truly is a short story writer without equal.

In the title story, a young mother must come to accept the fact that her widowed father is able to manage his life without her help. In “A Choice of Accommodations”, a romantic getaway to attend a wedding goes strangely awry during a late night revel. In “Only Goodness”, a sister must accept the fact that she is not responsible for the man her brother has become. Finally, in “Hema and Kaushiik” a series of three linked stores, we follow the lives of a girl and a boy who first meet as young teens and then again years later as adults.

Unaccustomed Earth is a rich and powerful book. Lahiri is a talented writer who is able to plumb the depths of the human heart and the bonds of relationships. Few authors are able to express the workings of the mind so accurately, powerfully and emotionally. I have read all three of her books and she continues to impress me. Usually, I am not a fan of short stories. I typically feel somewhat unsatisfied after reading them. The characters and stories never seem fully developed or “finished”. However, after reading Lahiri’s fabulous novel, The Namesake, I wanted to read more by this talented author. I was dismayed to discover that her only other book (at that time), Interpreter of Maladies, was a collection of short stores. I was further dismayed to learn that it had won the Pulitzer. This would seem to be a reason to be encouraged, but my experience has been that I rarely like Pulitzer Prize-winning books. But, I loved The Namesake so much; I decided that I would read Interpreter of Maladies in spite of these two “strikes”against it. And am I ever glad I did. It was magnificent. So, it was with no trepidation at all that I picked up Unaccustomed Earth. And once again I was not disappointed. Without a doubt, Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. Even if you don't like short stories, give Unaccustomed Earth a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

I would give Unaccustomed Earth 4/5 stars (I really liked it).

Image from Google Images


FranticMommy said...

Keep readin! I admire the crap outta you for reading and reviewing all these books, Pam! Good job!

C said...

I just had to laugh when reading your post, because that's EXACTLY how I've been feeling about Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth...I've never been a big fan of short stories, and I'm always a little discouraged by books that've won the Pulitzer. I guess I'll have to reassess my preconceived notions on these two. Thanks Pam!


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