The stage had been long set, Jhumpa Lahiri has nothing to prove as she had long since established her writing prowess with Interpreter of Maladies, another book of short stories that took the literary world by surprise, earning her a Pulitzer.
Unaccustomed Earth considers the lives of Indian American characters and how they deal with their mixed cultural environment. It made number one on the New York Times Book Review list of “100 Best Books of 2008” as chosen by the paper’s editors. (source Wikipedia) It also won the 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.
The title story takes its theme from a brief quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Custom-House.” “My children will have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.” The section in which this quote appears clearly demonstrates this theme of loss.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing is perfect, the story flows like a dream and all that leaves you is a since of sheer bliss of having read a book which is so perfectly put together. The book is a compilation of short stories. Jhumpa Lahiri, herself is a Bengali who was brought up in US, so her stories mostly are based on different genre of Bengalis who came to US for their higher education and then eventually settled there with there kids. There struggle, their necessity to keep the culture alive in their kids.
Being a Probashi Bangali myself (Bengali who does not stay in Kolkata) the book is easy to relate to. The book gives you an insight into relationships, lifestyle and so much more about Bengali’s, away from the established cliche’s. Having said that, this may not be Lahiri’s best work, specially the books that precedes this one.
This review is for Random House India; however the opinions expressed here are my own.