Offspring of vacation roundup. #63 was Jumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth (New York: Knopf, 2008).
Summary: "From the internationally best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a superbly crafted new work of fiction: eight stories -- longer and more emotionally complex than any she has yet written -- that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers. In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father, who carefully tends the earth of her garden, where he and his grandson form a special bond. But he's harboring a secret from his daughter, a love affair he's keeping all to himself. In "A Choice of Accommodations," a husband's attempt to turn an old friend's wedding into a romantic getaway weekend with his wife takes a dark, revealing turn as the party lasts deep into the night. In "Only Goodness," a sister 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 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 Jhumpa Lahiri's signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom, and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is a masterful, dazzling work of a writer at the peak of her powers."
My take: Can't possibly do this one justice, but in a word: gorgeous. The one thing tying these stories together is that they're all about Bengali families from Calcutta who are raising or have raised their children in the U.S., so there's that particular cultural note to it -- but the stories also speak to all manner of familial and intimate relationships in ways that are universal. Not usually a short story fan, but for these, I'll gladly make an exception.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.