Click here to read reviewer Ram Subramanian's take on Unaccustomed Earth.
In each of the eight stories about relationships in Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth draws on the Indian immigrant experience, or that of being an immigrant parent's child. The stories
plumb many different types of relationships. The title story explores the relationship between a grown child and a parent as the parent grows older and loses a spouse. Lahiri delicately
examines the disparity between what the child imagines the parent feels and wants and what those desires are in reality. Other stories
focus on relationships between husband and wives, between immigrant children who choose nontraditional partners who aren't Indian and their families, or
The last three stories share a common thread. Two Indian families are friends;
one returns to India for several years, and when they return to America, stay with the other family for several months. The returning family has a teenage boy while the host family has a daughter just entering her teen years. In
"Once In A Lifetime," the distant relationship between the children is discussed. In
"Year's End," we hear the son's story as he enters adulthood. His mother has died and his father remarried, giving him stepsisters. In the book's final story,
"Going Ashore," we learn the story of what has occurred to the young girl of the host family; then these two meet again and become lovers.
was a New York Times Best Book Of The Year. I enjoyed it, and I'm not often a fan of short stories. Each story relates another dimension of human relationships, often exploring topics I'd not considered. Lahiri has an innate understanding of the myriad human relationships and the skill to write about her understanding in a way that provokes thought.
Recommended for all fiction readers.