Book Review: Unaccustomed Earth – Jhumpa Lahiri [TSS]

Title: Unaccustomed Earth: Stories
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
ISBN: 9780307278258
Pages: 352
Release Date: April 1, 2008
Publisher: Vintage
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Short Stories
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:

In these eight stories, Jhumpa Lahiri uses Indian Americans and the clash between the first and second generations to deliver universal themes about the human condition.

Review:

I loved Jhumpa Lahiri’s first set of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, and while I’ve had this book for some time, its taken me awhile to pick it up.  I figured that, while the stories would be great, they’d be dark and a bit heavy.  Imagine my surprise when I found this book easy to read and utterly engrossing.

My main issue with short stories is that there is not enough time to bond with the main characters, to establish a real relationship with them before the story is over.  Lahiri avoids that through the length of these stories – they’re longer than you’d expect, and this she is able to develop vivid, three dimensional characters in each one.  It’s a testament to her talent that I sympathized with every character in her stories.

I loved the issues that Lahiri chose to tackle, especially in light of the clashes between first and second generation Indians (first, being those who immigrated, second being the children born in the new country).  As a second generation Indian, I found that Lahiri had put many of my concerns and frustrations into words.  I also loved that all her characters were in different situations – it was as if she had written about different feelings I’ve had at various stages in my life, or anticipate having as the future takes shape.  This book really spoke to me.

Lahiri’s writing is beautiful in Unaccustomed Earth.  She really has honed the craft; her prose is precise and meticulous, yet flows smoothly.  She does an amazing job conveying deep and complex emotions through just a few words.  The reader can feel the anguish, the despair, the joy, the passion of her characters simply through choice words and phrases.  It’s an amazing experience to read this book, as you’ll get so wrapped up in it that it won’t let you go for a long time after reading the final pages.

I absolutely loved this book.  I was riveted throughout it, and constantly felt the need to keep on reading.  These stories aren’t heavy or depressing, but Lahiri does an amazing job making them relatable to Indians and non-Indians alike by making them about humanity and the shared issues we face.  I can’t recommend these stories highly enough, and only hope that Lahiri’s next book will be coming out soon.

Comments

  1. This part of your review sold me: “it was as if she had written about different feelings I’ve had at various stages in my life, or anticipate having as the future takes shape. This book really spoke to me.”

    The immigration story and the clash of first and second generations are universal — the particulars may differ by culture but many of us can relate.

  2. This part of your review sold me: “it was as if she had written about different feelings I’ve had at various stages in my life, or anticipate having as the future takes shape. This book really spoke to me.”

    The immigration story and the clash of first and second generations are universal — the particulars may differ by culture but many of us can relate.

  3. You are now the second person in just a few days that basically told me this is a must-read! Ok..moving it up on the TBR pile!

  4. You are now the second person in just a few days that basically told me this is a must-read! Ok..moving it up on the TBR pile!

  5. This was one of my favorite books of 2009. I loved it – and I usually have the worst luck with short story collections. I think she’s brilliant!

  6. This was one of my favorite books of 2009. I loved it – and I usually have the worst luck with short story collections. I think she’s brilliant!

  7. Great review. I loved this book too! She’s one of my favourite authors.

  8. Great review. I loved this book too! She’s one of my favourite authors.

  9. Lahiri is one of my favorite writers and this book is one of my favorites! So glad you enjoyed it so much! Great review, Swapna – you are spot on! Cheers!

  10. Lahiri is one of my favorite writers and this book is one of my favorites! So glad you enjoyed it so much! Great review, Swapna – you are spot on! Cheers!

  11. I still haven’t gotten to this one yet. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  12. I still haven’t gotten to this one yet. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  13. I struggle with short stories because of character development too. I bet I would love these longer stories as well.

  14. I struggle with short stories because of character development too. I bet I would love these longer stories as well.

  15. Absolutely one of my favorite books of 2009. I love short stories and this collection is one of the very best. Glad you enjoyed it too – and I also can’t wait until her next book.

  16. Absolutely one of my favorite books of 2009. I love short stories and this collection is one of the very best. Glad you enjoyed it too – and I also can’t wait until her next book.

  17. I loved the book for the same reasons you did – one can identify with the feelings and emotions whether you are Indian or non Indian. Its applies to all.

  18. I loved the book for the same reasons you did – one can identify with the feelings and emotions whether you are Indian or non Indian. Its applies to all.

  19. I’ve been intending to read this collection for far too long. It’s been recommended by so many friends, but I always hesitate to read short stories. I’ve found myself enjoying some collections more and more, and I’m intrigued by the length of these.

  20. I’ve been intending to read this collection for far too long. It’s been recommended by so many friends, but I always hesitate to read short stories. I’ve found myself enjoying some collections more and more, and I’m intrigued by the length of these.

  21. I loved “Unaccustomed Earth” — definitely one of my favorite reads from last year. Even though they were short stories, several of the characters still have stayed with me after almost a year of reading the stories.

    I have “Interpreter of Maladies” still waiting to be read!

  22. I loved “Unaccustomed Earth” — definitely one of my favorite reads from last year. Even though they were short stories, several of the characters still have stayed with me after almost a year of reading the stories.

    I have “Interpreter of Maladies” still waiting to be read!

  23. Wonderful review!! I got this book for Christmas and am so excited about getting the chance to read it. Lahiri is one of my very favorite authors and I am so glad that you loved this book! I will have to let you know what I think of it after I am done.

  24. Wonderful review!! I got this book for Christmas and am so excited about getting the chance to read it. Lahiri is one of my very favorite authors and I am so glad that you loved this book! I will have to let you know what I think of it after I am done.

  25. I picked this one up awhile back, simply because I was on yet another of my short story kicks and felt the same about it in that the author did not leave us readers hanging but richly filled the story’s pages…making us like the characters and feel what they were feeling…

    ~~

  26. I picked this one up awhile back, simply because I was on yet another of my short story kicks and felt the same about it in that the author did not leave us readers hanging but richly filled the story’s pages…making us like the characters and feel what they were feeling…

    ~~

  27. I’ve had Unaccustomed Earth fr a while and have put it off because I know how upset I was when Interpreter of Maladies came to an end. I know, I’m holding off the inevitable. 🙂

  28. I’ve had Unaccustomed Earth fr a while and have put it off because I know how upset I was when Interpreter of Maladies came to an end. I know, I’m holding off the inevitable. 🙂

  29. I loved this one too. I’ve read everything Lahiri’s written and am in awe of her talent. Thanks for the great review!

  30. I loved this one too. I’ve read everything Lahiri’s written and am in awe of her talent. Thanks for the great review!

  31. This short story is collection and I agree that Lahiri writes about the immigrant experience so very well. As the daughter of immigrants, albeit not Indian, I felt many of the stories resonated for me too. She is truly talented.

  32. This short story is collection and I agree that Lahiri writes about the immigrant experience so very well. As the daughter of immigrants, albeit not Indian, I felt many of the stories resonated for me too. She is truly talented.

  33. I loved this one, too! And I’m currently listening to The Namesake on CD for the South Asian Author Challenge.

    Here’s my review:

    http://bibliofreakblog.com/fiction/unaccustomed-earth-by-jhumpa-lahiri/

  34. I loved this one, too! And I’m currently listening to The Namesake on CD for the South Asian Author Challenge.

    Here’s my review:

    http://bibliofreakblog.com/fiction/unaccustomed-earth-by-jhumpa-lahiri/

  35. I really enjoyed this book as well. I agree with you that Lahiri has an amazing way of portraying emotions. In retrospect I feel like maybe I should have rated the book higher in my review – I think the writing was stunning, but the stories left me feeling depressed, which sometimes left a bad taste in my mouth. Here’s my review:

    http://thestorygirlbookreviews.blogspot.com/2010/10/unaccustomed-earth.html

  36. I really enjoyed this book as well. I agree with you that Lahiri has an amazing way of portraying emotions. In retrospect I feel like maybe I should have rated the book higher in my review – I think the writing was stunning, but the stories left me feeling depressed, which sometimes left a bad taste in my mouth. Here’s my review:

    http://thestorygirlbookreviews.blogspot.com/2010/10/unaccustomed-earth.html

  37. I just reviewed this book and then came here to check out your latest reviews and this book on your sidebar.. As I wrote in my review, I liked this book as well but I really wish Lahiri would explore new themes..

  38. I just reviewed this book and then came here to check out your latest reviews and this book on your sidebar.. As I wrote in my review, I liked this book as well but I really wish Lahiri would explore new themes..

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