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Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
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Unaccustomed Earth (2008)

by Jhumpa Lahiri

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,2601821,164 (4.13)344
  1. 100
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    A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies: Stories by John Murray (ShortStoryLover)
    ShortStoryLover: Murray's style of writing in this collection of short stories is similarly subtle to Jhumpa Lahiri's in her short story collections. Several of his stories feature Indian-Americans, and two are set in India.
  4. 20
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    Inesdelreves: Un incidente sin importancia desencadena una verdadera hecatombe en el seno de la familia. Una novela sobre la importancia del lugar que cada cual ocupa en el mundo
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Showing 1-5 of 174 (next | show all)
This 2008 book received plenty of accolades upon release, and I think deservedly so. One of the very best collections I've read, the stories are consistently good - the five in Part I and the loosely related three in Part II. The characters are of Bengali-Indian ethnicity, like the author, but make no mistake: these are at center American stories. The dual cultures enliven the narratives, and, for me at least, prompted sympathy for the challenges of assimilation. But we also read of Christmas breaks from college, Gilligan's Island on TV and nights out for hamburgers. A mag review said it well: "So thoroughly and judiciously does she use detail that she easily presents entire lives with each story. These are tales of careful observation and adjustment." ( )
  JamesMScott | Mar 9, 2017 |
I am having difficulty rating this book. 5 stars for the beautiful writing but a one star (or less) for the dark, bleak, depressing, hopeless stories featuring unlikable characters. As I turned the last page, I felt in need of a Prozac. I'm surprised it wasn't an Oprah pick!
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
Excellent stories and writing. Eight stories, some of which are linked. Even the separate ones have a common thread. Jhumpa Lahiri is a Pulitzer Prize winner and internationally best selling author. The details are exquisite. I listened to this on CD, and it's so rich, that I'll read the book as well, which I have at home. Having heard it, the special voices in it during reading will resonate more. It's one worth listening to before reading. There are strong accents that lend so much atmosphere and authenticity, and you may not pick that up in simply reading. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
Again, Lahiri has captured the struggles, big and small, obvious and subtle, of the immigrant experience in her short stories. Her prose and way of exposing the mundane as the rich minefield of human relationships, along with that very concise yet broad prose, complements the nuances demanded by the short story form. The repetition of the Oxbridge-Ivy educated children of immigrants rejecting the traditions their parents stood for may grate on some readers, while others may find the latter half of the collection weak on the theme of immigrant experiences: the characters are so Westernised and experience the same marriage or alcoholism problems that their "immigrant"ness seem almost unnecessary, and maybe that is the point.

Aside: was the author's father a micro/biologist or something because that seems to be THE job for the fathers of her characters. ( )
  kitzyl | Dec 31, 2016 |
This is the third book I've read by his author, and my least favorite. I confess that I am not a huge fan of short stories and I found this collection uneven. I liked the first story, "Unaccustomed Earth" and the final trio of related stories, collectively, "Hema and Kaushik", although these stories took a long time to get to the payoff. Generally, however, I was not engaged by these stories. Perhaps there was too much first person naval-gazing for me. There were stale marriages, adulterous relationships, cheating partners, alcoholic relatives and a couple of widowed fathers, but most of these characters were not that interesting to me. I listened to the audiobook and the female narrator was much better than the male one. ( )
  fhudnell | Oct 20, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 174 (next | show all)
There is much cultural news in these precisely observed studies of modern-day Bengali-Americans — many of them Ivy-league strivers ensconced in prosperous suburbs who can’t quite overcome the tug of traditions nurtured in Calcutta. With quiet artistry and tender sympathy, Lahiri creates an impressive range of vivid characters — young and old, male and female, self-knowing and self-deluding — in engrossing stories that replenish the classic themes of domestic realism: loneliness, estrangement and family discord.
added by aksanil | editThe New York Times (Mar 12, 2008)
 
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Epigraph
"Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth."

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Customs House
Dedication
For my parents and for my sister

Vintage 2009 edition: For Octavio, for Noor
First words
After her mother's death, Ruma's father retired from the pharmaceutical company where he had worked for many decades and began traveling in Europe, a continent he'd never seen.
Quotations
…I gathered from my parents’ talk that it was regarded as a wavering, a weakness. “They should have known its impossible to go back,” they said to their friends, condemning your parents for having failed at both ends. We had stuck it out as immigrants while you had fled; had we been the ones to go back to India, my parents seemed to suggest, we would have stuck it out there as well.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307265730, Hardcover)

From the internationally best-selling, Pulitzer Prize–winning author, a superbly crafted new work of fiction: eight stories—longer and more emotionally complex than any she has yet written—that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.

In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father, who carefully tends the earth of her garden, where he and his grandson form a special bond. But he’s harboring a secret from his daughter, a love affair he’s keeping all to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a husband’s attempt to turn an old friend’s wedding into a romantic getaway weekend with his wife takes a dark, revealing turn as the party lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a sister 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 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 Jhumpa Lahiri’s signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom, and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is a masterful, dazzling work of a writer at the peak of her powers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:16 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Exploring the secrets and complexities lying at the heart of family life and relationships, a collection of eight stories includes the title work, about a young mother in a new city whose father tends her garden while hiding a secret love affair.

» see all 5 descriptions

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