Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Goodreads Summary: In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father who carefully tends her garden–where she later unearths evidence of a love affair he is keeping to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a couple’s romantic getaway weekend takes a dark turn at a party that lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a woman eager to give her younger brother the perfect childhood she never had is overwhelmed by guilt, anguish and anger when his alcoholism threatens her family. And in “Hema and Kaushik,” a trio of linked stories–a luminous, intensely compelling elegy of life, death, love and fate–we follow the lives of a girl and boy who, one fateful winter, share a house in Massachusetts. They travel from innocence to experience on separate, sometimes painful paths, until destiny brings them together again years later in Rome.

Unaccustomed Earth is rich with the author’s signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is the work of a writer at the peak of her powers.

My Views: Well, let me tell you first offs, I’m not a big fan of short stories. I was, once upon a time, but not anymore. I appreciate novels more now. You think I should have known this was a short stories book, right? Wrong! How was I supposed to know that with my habit of diving into a book without knowing a thing beforehand? No, I don’t read the above summary before reading the book. I know, I know, I’m peculiar that way.

Well then, what happened when I finished reading the first story and went to the next? I thought they were chapters and I was trying to make some connection between the two when the reality dawned on me. And I turned to the back cover and scrolled my eyes through the page until I found the words ‘short stories’. *Sigh*

And then I opened the book and went on reading. Yes, that’s what I did.

Okay, I’m torn as to how to review this book. I have only once reviewed a short story before and this is a collection of those. Ok let me try saying something about the writing and the stories in general.

What was most apparent to me was the similar undertones in all stories. They all deal with relationships, cultural change and cultural differences. All have in common a similar kind of emotional tug and play. They show the reality and fragility of relationships as well as the emotional pull that many other relationships have. The emotions range from pain to longing to regret and happiness. The stories seem similar and different at the same time. You find a connect within all of them. The base seems the same.

I applaud Jhumpa Lahiri for the beauty with which she understands and portrays emotions in different circumstances and as was more evident here, in case of NRI’s (non-resident Indians).

Having read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and having liked it, I was curious to know what I would think of this one. Even though it gave me a big surprise in terms of short stories, I did like this little break in between reading novels and the flavor and taste was entirely different from the books I usually read. So, yes, I did like this book and now I look forward to reading Interpreter of Maladies whose many praises I have heard from fellow readers.

You should give this one a try if you are into short stories.

4/5 stars – I liked it.

I received a review copy of the book from Random House India Publishing but the views expressed are my own, I have not been given any compensation for the same.

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