Unaccustomed Earth

Unaccustomed Earth

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Stephanie Stiles: It pretty much doesn't get better than Lahire, and Unaccustomed Earth is further evidence of this. Her stories are every bit as compelling and engaging as her novel. Toward the end of this collection, I wondered briefly if she had become limited by her familiar theme of cultural and generational conflicts, but by the time I finished, I realized my error in wondering. She's great.
Rating: *****

Debbie Weiss: There is not much I can add to what Janet, Ollie and Gail have already said about this wonderful book. I, too, enjoyed each novella and connected with all of the characters in their struggles to be "American" even though they are deeply entrenched in the immigrant lifestyles of their parents. Excellent reading!
Rating: *****

Gail Reid: Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of long and sometimes interwoven short stories which like the author's earlier works "Interpreter of Maladies" and "The Namesake" delve into the consciousness of the Indian-American experience. Lahiri is always at her most insightful in examining the children and young adults who are first generation Indian-American and the conflicts both they and their parents experience between the pull of family ties and tradition and their assimilation in America. If you believe that short story writers cannot create the depth of experience and emotion that novelists can accomplish in much longer works, then you would be wrong in this instance. Every observation and every word in the narrative are chosen so poignantly and so sparingly, that Lahiri delivers a perfectly developed story in each of the eight in this collection.
Rating: *****

Ollie Richie: Acclaimed as the Book of the Year by the New York Times and many other critics, this book, in my honest opinion, is awesome. It is comprised of 8 short stories exploring the generational struggles of Bengali families living in America. It follows a minor population of highly educated Bengalis - I swear every character has a Ph.D.

Lahiri creates wonderfully, vivid characters. She describes moods and emotions so beautifully that I would get tense when there was awkwardness between characters and tearful when they were upset. Even though I would get frustrated as a story ended (except for one, I wanted them all to continue), I would get immediately invested in the new story.

The final three stories of the book are tied and I was blown away by the power of the ending. It follows a man and woman who meet in childhood and get a chance at love later in life. They narrate their stories to each other, telling the other how they felt during certain episodes and the impact of the other on their life.

Themes explored throughout the book center on isolation in a new land, death, love, addiction, adultery, the struggles between parents and children, and resignation. Lahiri's talent is awe inspiring - she narrates from the male and female perspective with equal honesty, she switches from third person in one story to first person in another flawlessly. And though there were common themes and culture between the stories I felt that they were all equally powerful and unique.
Rating: *****

Janet Kolodner: This is a beautiful book of novellas and short stories by the author of The Namesake. The stories are all about Bengali (Indian) immigrants and their children. The stories focus on the tensions between the generations and their expectations of each other, the challenges of leaving one's homeland and making a new life in a new place, the difficulties in merging one's dual identities, and the consequences of assimilating or not assimilating in America.

The writing is beautiful and simple. While the stories are about Indian-Americans, I find the issues universal and identify with one or more of the characters in each story. I don't know who the author bases her stories on, but the characters all seem to be her friends and family -- she loves them and accepts them as one only does with one's friends and family.

I rarely have time to read a novel these days; I've been staying up way too late reading this book and enjoying every minute.
Rating: *****

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