Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Unaccustomed Earth

Jhumpa Lahiri's latest collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, is, in my opinion, a real stand-out in recent years of impressive short fiction. I especially enjoyed the final three stories which trace the overlapping lives of Hema and Kaushik after their families emigrate from Bengal. One aspect of Lahiri's style is that the narrator is almost always looking at events in retrospect, the characters recalling the past and describing memories. I found this to be a really interesting way to explore the questions and topics the stories present - how and why we attach to places and people, how our attachments shape us, how brutally chance can affect our lives.

And also, each of the stories are set (at least in part) in my neighborhood! It was really fun to read scenes that could have taken place on my block in Cambridge and to see the buildings and landmarks I walk by everyday in her character's lives. Unaccustomed Earth is a fantastic collection of stories - I highly recommend.