In this stunning collection of stories, Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri takes the reader from the East Coast of the United States to India and Thailand and back, allowing us inside the homes and hotel rooms of warring lovers, conflicted families, and jealous roommates. Having read both of her previous books, The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies, I was the most impressed with Unaccustomed Earth.
Be forewarned that the pieces in this volume—stories of greater length with more heart-tugging than the ones in Interpreter of Maladies—don't always have clean or pleasant endings. One protagonist is finished off by a flood triggered by the 2005 tsunami, and self-immolation is a recurring theme. More than once, I finished a story with multiple questions that I couldn't answer. But then, perhaps, that's her point: in fiction, as in life, problems can't always be resolved by the end of the chapter.
One recurring theme in Lahiri’s books is the conflict between first generation Indian immigrant parents and their second generation American-born children in that the parents resist their children's Americanization while the children resist their parents' Indian-ness. While Lahiri has been criticized by some who say her portrayals don't represent all Bengalis who have come to the United States, it’s an interesting and sometimes painful look into the conflicts that emigration and change create for some families, regardless of their origin.
The stories in this volume are beautifully written, in language so descriptive that you’ll easily picture the scenes as you read about them. Lahiri’s characters are drawn so realistically that you’ll find yourself rooting for or against them. If there’s anything that leaves the reader unsatisfied, it will only be that the book isn’t longer.