BOOK REVIEW| UNACCUSTOMED EARTH
A lot of sporadic posting on the blog these days if you’ve noticed, but hey, I’m posting, aren’t I?
Spoiler alert: I did not like this book as much as Interpreter of maladies, probably because a lot of the stories are just so sad! Still, Ms. Lahiri’s finesse was apparent as always. Honestly, the book impacted me mostly emotionally than in any other way, which is a good thing but when that happens (as with ‘the god of small things’), it is incredibly difficult for me to speak about the book without giving away the story. Thankfully, there’s wikipedia:
The title story of the book is about three generations, and the relationship between the three, the father, his daughter, Ruma, and her son, Akash. The father, a retiree, and also a recent widower, visits his daughter’s new home in the suburbs of Seattle. The story explores some of the difficult gender roles in America, such as Ruma’s decision to leave her successful legal career to raise children, and her husband’s hard work to support the family. It also explores the family issues associated with Ruma’s Indian heritage, including her sense of obligation to care for her father and have him live with her and her immediate family.
The relationship between Akash and his grandfather made me wish I had a better relationship with my grandparents and that my children get to have one with my parents.
The stories in this book are individually longer than those in her previous short story collection. Jhumpa Lahiri has such a deep understanding of human feelings and behaviour that people-watching through her eyes and carefully woven words is in turns refreshing and disturbing. My favorite stories in the first part of this book would have to be ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ and ‘Hell-Heaven’.
The second part of the book chronicles the lives of Hema and Kaushik; two people intimately connected by life and tragedy. The first two stories are told in first person by Hema and Kaushik respectively. Time is a wonderful thing and Ms. Lahiri’s use of time in her work fascinates me. I am constantly in awe of her ability to zoom in and out, even creating stories that span close to three generations in less than 20 pages.
She lived on Long Island, an anomaly, an Indian woman alone.
She would slouch in her chair, looking bothered but resigned, as if a subway she were riding had halted between stations.
Perhaps because she expected so little, he was generous with her, attentive in a way he’d never been in his marriage.
…but Rahul looked like neither of them, his genes pulled not from the surface, but from a deeper, forgotten source.
She was that rare, unsettling thing, a teenage girl already conscious of her power over men while at the same time uninterested in them.
He was her flesh and blood, her mother had told her in the hospital the day Akash was born. Only the words her mother used were more literal, enriching the tired phrase with meaning: “He is made from your meat and bone”
He recalled the children running through the rooms, the pitch of their young voices. It was a part of their lives only he and his wife carried with them.
It was not passion that was driving him, at seventy, to be involved, however discreetly with another woman. Instead it was the consequence of being married all those years, the habit of companionship.
There were times Ruma felt closer to her mother in death than she had in life, an intimacy born simply of thinking of her so often, of missing her.
I thought this book was an almost 4 out of 5 stars.
I’ll take a break from Jhumpa Lahiri and if all goes well, I’ll be reviewing a book I’m so in love with! Excited to share 🙂 I hope you’ve all had a great week. Enjoy the weekend!