Author; Jhumpa Lahiri. (Indian-American)
Genre; Fiction (short stories)
Publisher/Year of 1st Publication: Originally by Alfred A.Knopf in 2008. My copy by Vintage Books.
Number of Pages; 333
Other Titles; Interpreter of Maladies, (Pulitzer Prize) Namesake
Unaccustomed Earth is a heart warming, beautifully done collection of short stories that invites the reader into a world of family, childhood, love and even death. It is interesting how Jhumpa is able to write stories that are so dense and rich and packed, so full of activity as short stories as these are often material for novels. It is a delightful book to read. Besides the fact that the language of the book is easy, it gives the reader a warm fuzzy feeling in the belly as some things are lovingly familiar even though all the stories are wrapped around immigrant Bengali – Americans.
I didn’t first realise that it was a collection of short stories and so as I read the title story Unaccustomed Earth, which happens to be the first one, a rather long short story, I found myself asking what the author’s plan was as a lot had been revealed already by a few pages in. It was literally until the end of the first story when I turned the final page of it that I knew. This however did not in any way influence the fluidity of all the other stories. I transitioned to other stories so easily they felt related. The 2nd part of the book is three stories that are actually related, they could possibly be a novella.
I first read Jhumpa’s work at the beginning of this year – Interpreter of Maladies, another collection of short stories that won her a pulitzer in 2000 and from then on I began looking for other books she had written. Scattered all through the short stories in Unaccustomed Earth, are touchy themes of addiction, mental health, love and guilt which Lahiri does a good job in normalising. The reader is put at ease and doesn’t feel the pressure that usually comes with such themes. Two stories of the collection are dear to me as they mirror the “humanness” of people despite what may be inwardly wrong with them. Hell-Heaven and Only Goodness. As with the other collection of stories I have read, it’s difficult to pick a favourite, but the title story Unaccustomed Earth is a fantastic opening and sets the tone for a book written very thoughtfully.
Her technique, her style, characterisation, plot, detail everything. She excels at everything.
Many have said this one is not any different from her previous short story collection but I am of the opinion that as long as she is telling true stories, she can write on the same theme for as many times she wants. Personally haven’t gotten tired of her theme and she leave me wanting more at the end of each story.
This was a good read. I hardly ever read books twice but this will surely be on the list of books I want to read again.
Read last month’s book review here