Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri


AUTHOR- JhumpaLahiri was born in London, the daughter of Bengali Indian immigrants, andraised in Rhode Island. Herdebut collection of stories, Interpreterof Maladies, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award andThe New Yorker Debut of the Year. Her novel TheNamesake was a New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Book Prizefinalist and was turned into a movie by the same name by Mira Nair. She livesin Brooklyn, New York.

ISBN- 978 818400 020 7

GENRE- ShortStory Collection/ Fiction

EXCERPT- “Thesight of her father’s rental car, a compact maroon sedan, upset her, freshlyconfirming the fact that she lived on a separate coast thousands of miles fromwhere she grew up, a place where her parents knew no one………”  [From the 1st chapter- UnaccustomedEarth]

                    “There were countlessimages, terrible things she’d read about in the newspaper and never had tothink about again. Buses blasted apart by bombs, bodies on stretchers, youngboys throwing stones. He had witnessed these things, unseen and uninvolved, yetwith an immediacy she had never felt.” [From Part Two: Hema and Kaushik]

KOUSTABH 'QUETZALCOATL' says- This book is much like and unlike JhumpaLahiri’s earlier two books. It is an enigmatic yet heart touching collection oftales of Indian (Bengali) immigrants and that of their children and evengrandchildren. The Book itself is in two parts, part 1 containing five shortstories of different people all across America facing the same troubles of homesickness and agedisparity.

Unaccustomed Earth (chpt.1) deals with three generations of Bengali-Americanscoping with their own problems. When her widowed father comes visiting Ruma’sAmerican life is torn asunder. Between her father and her son Akash she triesto balance out, yet again to be tormented when she learns of her father’saffair.

Hell- Heavendeals with two themes, that of the Americanization and return to roots and aharbored and never expressed love of a married woman for another man. But thevision through the eyes of a child is what set this story apart.

A Choice of Accommodations really even stumped me. It’s pretty boring aboutrelationships after marriage (*Yawn*, I ain’t yet married u know!!) and how Sexchanges it all back (That is all I could understand).

Only Goodness takesthe cherry of part one. It is about the hazards of drinking (really moralistic)and one can easily understand the damage alcohol brings to Rahul and his sisterSudha’s life even after years.

Nobody’s Business is the last in part 1 (yeah I know you are all bored, but please readon). It’s again about complexities and hazards of relationship especiallycross-cultural. But the best and worst thing is when you call ‘Sangeeta’ as‘Sang’ (and amazingly its Sangeeta under which a red line comes in Microsoftword!!)

       Part 2, on the other hand, have threeshort stories but with common protagonists ‘Hema & Kaushik’. It is theirlife and relationship through their lenses of them both. As childhood friendsand later guilty escapades of secret lovers their story ranges across 4continents. But what I loved best is the ending, which unlike customary openending so favored by Jhumpa Lahiri, ends with a heart wrenching disaster(literally and figuratively both).

       Though I have often heard people assumingthat if you are not a ‘Bong’ (Modern Bengali guy/girl) you would be unable toconnect with the characters of the book. I can rest all of my readers assurethat is not the case (although I am a BONG!! go figure that out). Though mostof us are not second generation immigrants in a wide sense, but in thisincreasing metropolitan culture somewhere aren’t we all being uprooted from ourroots??

       But it is only here that my complaintslie. In a book where the disparities between cultures are the base stone, MissLahiri presents India and particularly Bengal as an exotic land of dreams unsuitable for youngBengali-Americans who could never ever enjoy their ancestral land. For me itgets frustrating to see Kaushik {From Hema & Kaushik} return after yearsfrom India without the view of ANYthing good!! Although myexpectations was of something like what I had after reading ‘The Namesake’, butthe lack of Indian spice is what doesn’t suit me.

       This is definitely a read for those whocan handle and understand emotionally exhausting stories. As a critic haswritten, “Jhumpa Lahiri’s set of vignettes makes memorable reading. They combinelearning experience with delight. The yearnings of exile and the emotionalconfusion are the two significant strands of these stories of power and impact.”Try your hands out at this collection, and though sometimes long and boring (Ihope my blog isn’t like it, though long it definitely is), at the end of theday you would definitely get its meaning.

Keep Reading.

My Rating – 3.7stars

PRICE - INR 221/- (Flipkart price)


  1. brilliant, koustabh! welcome to ALOP! :) i particularly loved d humor in ur review, and this picture is BREATHTAKING! Looks like something I should borrow from u. ;)

  2. Great review Koustabh :D Looking forward to read more from you :D

  3. did i hear Arpita borrowing this book .. great .. can i have it after you are done lasy .. though I shud probably ask koustabh .. Can i please have this book for 1 weekend ? I nly want to read the story in part 2 ..


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