Saturday, June 11, 2011

:BOOKSHELF: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed EarthWhen I started reading Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, I didn't realize that it was actually a collection of short stories.

I was confused for a bit into the second story because I kept looking for a connection to what I thought was the previous chapter.

However, while the characters are different, the themes are all very similar. Each of the stories is related to families from India who have moved to America to raise their children and pursue careers...and all seem to be dealing with various types of great loss.

The title story, Unaccustomed Earth, follows the story of Ruma who has moved to Seattle for her husband career. Her mother has passed away and she is struggling with her feelings of obligation to 'take care' of her father while unaware that he has very much moved on with his life.

My favorite part of the book is actually a collection of stories that follows Hema and Kaushik at different periods of their lives. In "Once in a Lifetime", Lahiri explores how the two met as children and the connection of their families due primarily to their similar origins through Hema's voice.

In the second story, "Year's End", Hema disappears and Kaushik (as a young adult) shares the death of his mother and the story unfolds to explain his choice to lead a rather nomadic life.

In the final installment, Hema and Kaushik meet again in Italy about 20 years later and reconnect under interesting circumstances. This last story has an omniscient narrator and tells of Hema's life as a college professor and impending arranged marraige. Kaushik, on the other had, has been traveling the world and become quite a successful photojournalist.

Hema finally develops the relationship with Kaushik that she dreamed about as a child, but she is faced with a choice between two men. Her choice...and the ending of this story...are quite dramatic.

While Lahiri is clearly a talented writer, I found her prose to be somewhat dry at times. And, I am sure that this has to do with the short-story format, but I often left the stories wanting though the story was not finished.

Have you read Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth? What were your thoughts? Also, I do believe that Lahiri has some full-length novels as well. If you have read any of these, which were they and what were your impressions?
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