Description: Eight stories that take the reader from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter and uncover the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.
Review: My main complaint about short stories is one of its trademarks: brevity. By the time I get comfortable with the plot and warm up to its characters, the story is over and I feel cheated. Perhaps, I’m reading them wrong and should not approach them in the same way as I normally do with any fiction book. Writing a short story must be very hard and it takes a rare and particular talent to write captivating short stories. The author must perfectly craft every word, every sentence, in order to develop character, plot and intrigue in a limited space.
Lahiri’s eight stories featured in Unaccustomed Earth are much lengthier than most short stories I’ve read, but I welcomed them. I felt they gave her much needed room to explore not only the different themes, but also a showcasing the various relationships throughout her stories. Lahiri’s stories always feature characters of Bengali descent who reside in America but they are far from formulaic. In the title and personally my favorite story, Unaccustomed Earth, Brooklyn-to-Seattle transplant Ruma frets about a presumed obligation to bring her widower father into her home, a stressful decision taken out of her hands by his unexpected independence. In another, the alcoholism of Rahul is described by his elder sister, Sudha, who struggles with her own disappointment, guilt, bewilderment and sense of duty. And in the loosely linked trio of stories closing the collection, the lives of Hema and Kaushik intersect over the years, first in 1974 when she is six and he is nine; then a few years later when, at 13, she swoons at the now-handsome 16-year-old teen’s reappearance; and again in Italy, when she is a 37-year-old academic about to enter an arranged marriage, and he is a 40-year-old photojournalist. Lahiri’s stories are surprising, aesthetically marvelous and shaped by a sure and provocative sense of inevitability. Her skill of storytelling is enchanting and I look forward to whatever she publishes next.
If you like this book try: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhmpah Lahiri, Bittersweet by Roopa Farooki