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 and 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.
©2008 Jhumpa Lahiri; (P)2008 Random House, Inc.
"Lahiri's enormous gifts as a storyteller are on full display in this collection: the gorgeous, effortless prose; the characters haunted by regret, isolation, loss, and tragedies big and small; and most of all, a quiet, emerging sense of humanity." (Khaled Hosseini)
"The author's ability to flesh out completely even minor characters in every story...is what will keep readers invested in the work until its heartbreaking conclusion." (Library Journal)
I'm a huge fan of Lahiri's work - her writing is always emotional, and Unaccustomed Earth is no exception. The characters in this book are wonderful - I really enjoyed getting to know them, and I found myself looking forward to my drives so I could spend more time with them. The narration is spot on, and this books lends itself to audio well due to the emotions that run through the stories. Stellar writing, a book you can really lose yourself in.
5 stars are not enough for this collection of short stories, whose effect is hard for me to describe. The landscape of these stories is the middle class life of first generation Americans (adolescents and adults) and their Bengali parents. The events in their lives seem strikingly ordinary: no different from those that any of us may have experienced. And yet, the way that Lahiri conveys the characters' pleasures, desires for human connection, losses, secrets, and nostalgia are the real subject of these stories. My favorite stories were the three inter-related tales centering on Hema and Kaushik. They know each other as children; have a brief, but distant re-acquaintance as adolescents; and re-connect with a profound love as adults. You might want to listen to this book in private. Like me, you might occasionally find your eyes getting moist as you listen. Superb narration, by the way.
I highly recommend this new collection of short stories from Jhumpa Lahiri -- the characters are very authentic and the plots of each story have rich and varied directions and surprises, despite all having a common thread of finding one's way in a new place.
I should also note that in general I'm not a fan of short stories, however these are almost like mini-novels with fully realized story arcs -- something that I find is often undercut in much short fiction.
I am a voracious reader with fairly eclectic taste. I like both fiction and non-fiction, biography, history and current events. I like well written mysteries and suspense and I love 19th and 20th century classical literature as well as modern fiction. My favorite author is Philip Roth but I also love Trollope, Hardy, Jonathan Franzen, Jane Austen and Edith Wharton. My favorite biographer is Robert Caro.
Jhumpa Lahiri's stories are moving and make real for the outsider the conflicts and contradictions of first and second generation immigrants in the highly educated and priveleged classes of America's haute bourgeoisie. I find her stories fascinating and complex but completely accessible, real and believable. THe readers were excellent and added to my satisfaction at hearing a book so well conceived and well read.
I found myself absorbed in each of the stories about immigrant families. I was unprepared for the fact that the stories were not woven together in the end but found that I forgave that due to the captivating nature of each one. Excellent narration.
I initially enjoyed the first few stories in the book, both because they were something different, as well as getting a first glimpse into mixed Indian-American culture.
But as other reviewers have noted, the stories eventually seem to all sound the same, and by the end I couldn't wait to be done with this book.
I was further disappointed because most of the characters are miserable (to various degrees), and two of the tragic endings rely on completely implausible circumstances -- the resolutions come across as lazy, since the reader can imagine plausible circumstances that could have yielded the same results.
The situation of 2nd generation Indian-Americans is Lahiri's department. The situations, the voices seem so authentic. And she writes like a dream
This is so far, my favorite book I've listened to….EVER!
The Namesake - Short story by same author. Another great!
You won't be disappointed.
Larhiri is India's Jane Austen, and if read with that in mind you'll love these short stories. They are not to be read for a moral or social tidbit but for the dialogue. Her wordplay between family, friends and neighbors paint a beautiful tapestry. Pay attention to what is said and not said. If you do then you'll start to playback your own conversations between family, friends, and neighbors and be better for it.
My only critique is similar to my critique of Austen - conversation is important but constant chitchat never goes anywhere leaving you feeling like somebody gave you a $1 hamburger instead of the $10 one you ordered.
I'd say more but I'll reserve it for another conversation.
I would listen to anything Jhumpa Lahiri wrote. This book was very good, although I liked Interpreter of Maladies much more.
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