Sunday, March 11, 2012

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

When I got to the end of this bittersweet book I was surprised to discover that the author of this book of extended short-stories was married with two children as the book's sub-text seemed to be 'Marriage ain't all it's cracked up to be': in the Title Story a father awkwardly having to forge a new relationship with his daughter now that his dominating wife has died thinks: 'He wanted to shield her from the deterioration that inevitably took place in the course of a marriage...'.
Like a previous book of hers that I had read 'The Namesake', it dealt with the 2nd generation immigrants from Bengal dealing with living the shallow American Dream while looking back at passing/disappearing closer family ties of an Indian past.  Most if not all the characters seemed to have isolated themselves from actively being involved in their communities and I supposed it reflects an affluent, middle-classed existence in the US.
I found in particular the last set of stories sad that two youngsters meet up when older and are attracted by a unspoken common past but lack the courage to go further than the initial sexual attraction, one dies after leading an aimless wandering Life and the other settles for a boring 'respectable' life.
That said the book did keep my attention over four days and being more interested in what was happening to the characters I missed out on the wonderful prose that other reviewers have commented on.
I liked what some other reviewers had to say:

'the stories are about real people-The stories are about those we care about most letting us down because they are incapable of having healthy relationships— like Rahul in “Only Goodness” and Farouk in “Nobody’s Business.” And they are about parents who return to us or finally abandon us like the father in “Year’s End.” '

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