Sometime back, I came across this piece in The New Yorker magazine. It was an interview with the Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, on writing The Boundary and few other works in Italian. I read the narrative, which she had translated into English. I am glad she did. Perhaps, I would have never known her side of the world—her stories and the characters that grow on you in a short span of time. I was instantly captivated by her storytelling. I wanted to explore more of her literary pieces now and that is how I ended up reading Unaccustomed Earth.
This book is a collection of short stories, broken down into two parts. The chapters are independent of each other, but set against a common backdrop—centered on the lives of Bengali immigrants, the children born and raised in America, the intricacies of their relationships; distances that widen over the time to the point of no return, separation that happens only to bring back two people together, love that begins for the first time for a grandparent and make him a person he has never been, and all the fragility that remains within, but surfaces at the slightest tension.
Once I started, I could not put it down. It intrigued me from the get-go. Unaccustomed Earth brought along stories that are not unimaginable, they are very much part of the human existence, the society and our essence of being. Human relationships are complex to fathom and Lahiri has chosen such complexity to dissect and make the stories palatable and relatable to her readers. Her simple language does not fail to hold your attention. Having read Lahiri for the first time, I am curious about the rest of her literary work.
Read this book any time of the day, you will enjoy doing it.
While we tend to compare a book with the author’s previous works and make a judgment on it. My idea is to always approach with an open mind and not become too critical of the writings. This helps me to read a book from a fresh perspective and also end it halfway when I realize that I am not enjoying the process.
And, if you happen to pick this book…for a long time, the presence of Ruma, Kaushik, Sudha, Hema and all those that mattered in the story will linger in your mind, their lives and their intricate relations—rekindling a part of your own life.