Fiction, Short Stories

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri


In eight short stories, the reader is tossed in the middle of specific family situations. It could be about spouses, siblings, parents and children, roommates, or lifelong acquaintances whose lives intersect at the most unexpected moments.

There is no beginning and no end to each story. Events have already begun happening when the reader arrives and continue happening when the reader exits. We are a fly on the wall, sometimes in a room where characters are conversing and sometimes on the walls of their minds. We learn of the high expectations for Indian immigrant children: multiple university degrees, marriage, a family, a successful career, and the perpetuation of those expectations. Anything less shames the parents and previous generations.

The writing is exquisite. If writing has a “volume,” this one is quiet and steady but not monotonous. There is great power in the quiet. Every move a character makes is part of his/her development. Every decision affects the outcome. We learn about what is said versus the large amount that is not said. The gap between the two usually has fateful consequences. There is love, hate, disappointment, redemption, loss, and learning. The last three stories blend together beautifully. And, although it is fiction, the people feel incredibly real and biographical.

What a delight to read such high quality writing as Unaccustomed Earth. I had no idea what to expect, but I came away feeling like I knew more about the Indian immigrant culture in the United States.

9.5/10 Stars


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