In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father who carefully tends her garden–where she later unearths evidence of a love affair he is keeping to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a couple’s romantic getaway weekend takes a dark turn at a party that lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a woman 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 fateful 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 the author’s signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is the work of a writer at the peak of her powers.
My thoughts –
This April was a busy month with Bihu celebrations, holidays & travelling and so for this month, I wanted to select a book which was doable amidst all the frenzy (Motif for April – Best of the Best: Read a book that has won recognition or a literary award). Going through my yet-to-read pile of books, I found Unaccustomed Earth (UE) which I had purchased quite some time ago. And being a collection of short stories it suited me & my situation perfectly. I had previously enjoyed THE NAMESAKE and INTERPRETER OF MALADIES by this author and hence did not have to think twice when I found this book.
The book is divided into two parts; the first part consisting of five individual stories and the second part being more of a novella telling the story of Hema & Kaushik in three stories (almost a novella) that are spread over a few decades and in which the lives of the two characters are fatefully intertwined.
I loved UE from the first story itself, after which the book is titled. Like her previous two books that I have read, this one too had the broad background of Bengali families settled in America and their everyday trials & tribulations of adapting to a new & different culture. The various stories, however, dwelt on the different aspects of human relationships & emotions in a very touching way which made me think & empathise. None of the characters in the stories are extraordinary beings (but people of whom we may know some, love some & hate some others) but the author had projected their lives and thoughts in a way that made them real & believable.
Ms. Lahiri does a profound job in weaving out these stories that are deep, quiet, penetrating & that touches a chord somewhere in the reader. Rather than the plot, the author propels the story forward with the psyche of the characters, as if the author has given them freedom to tell their own stories.
Final Words –
Read this one if you are looking for some short stories with a sea of depth in spite of their length.
- This review is linked to my 2016 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge & Goodreads Reading Challenge, 2016.