After recently reading Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer-winning debut collection of short stories - and loving it - there is no doubt in my mind that I would also love her other works. Her beautiful, emotionally-riveting prose has made me a fan. And so it is not without immense admiration and enthusiasm that I picked up her subsequent collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, and was blown away. Again and again, story after poignant story.
Unlike Interpreter, however, which was purely a compendium of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth was divided into two parts: the first part consists of five stand-alone stories while the second, entitled Hema and Kaushik, could easily be written as a novella – it is composed of three connected stories told in the alternating points of view of Hema and Kaushik, the protagonists. Each story could be read distinctly from the other, yes, but there is a continuity in their storylines, making them integrated parts of a whole.
"She clipped the ribbon with scissors and stuffed it into the garbage, surprised at how easily it fit, thinking of the husband who no longer trusted her, of the son whose cry now interrupted her, of the fledgling family that had cracked open that morning, as typical and as terrifying as any other." - Only Goodness
There is a quiet beauty to Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing that never fails to draw me in – unassuming, simple, devoid of embellishment but sophisticated nonetheless. And the stories themselves are always something that an ordinary reader can easily understand – perhaps not commiserate or completely sympathize with, but comprehend, at the very least. There is always one character in any one particular story with whom the reader can relate.
"A light rain had begun to fall, and within seconds the windows and the windshield seemed covered with scratches, similar to the ones she'd inflicted on herself, the drops beading up in small diagonal lines." - Nobody's Business
Of the stories that made up the first half, my favorites are Only Goodness, because I appreciated the sibling conflict, family issues, and maternal disposition of one of the characters, and Nobody’s Business, for the sheer sadness it made me feel – one that hurt so good. I also loved Hema and Kaushik – felt their despondency, the desperation for a happy ending, the urgency of love – and my heart bled.
(Heart is bleeding still.)
Book Details: Trade paperback, bought pre-loved from Book Sale