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Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
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Unaccustomed Earth (2008)

by Jhumpa Lahiri

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,7831581,376 (4.15)312
  1. 80
    Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (reenum)
  2. 40
    The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (reenum)
  3. 20
    Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry (Inesdelreves)
    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
  4. 10
    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.
  5. 10
    Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (chrisharpe)
  6. 00
    Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays by Eula Biss (Maiasaura)
  7. 00
    A Person of Interest: A Novel by Susan Choi (tangentialine)
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» See also 312 mentions

English (150)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Finnish (1)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (158)
Showing 1-5 of 150 (next | show all)
Absolutely fantastic is so many ways. Each story an absolute gem. In Interpreter of Maladies, there were some lighter stories, these were all serious but that only added to the collection. The final triology was esp. well done and I finally put it down and just absorbed for a while. Best book I've read in a while.
1 vote amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
Another great collection of short stories from the author of Namesake, Interpreter of Maladies. Some of them were developed better than others and some characters a little on the flat side, but the language and sentiment won out in the end. ( )
  emilyingreen | May 28, 2014 |
I kept running into Jhumpa Lahiri's books here on LibraryThing. With the release of The Lowlands, there have been discussions about whether she's a better short story writer than a novelist and I would like to have an opinion! So the only reasonable thing to do was to read something by her and Unaccustomed Earth was close at hand.

Set primarily in Cambridge, Massachusetts, [Unaccustomed Earth] is a collection of short stories dealing primarily with the experience of being a second generation Indian immigrant, with parents who still prefer traditional foods, are still deeply rooted in Indian culture and who spend their vacations back in India. The children float between the world of their parents and American culture, which adds a layer of complexity to the ordinary struggle to become an adult and to find a purpose and a place in the world.

Lahiri writes with subtlety and understanding. I especially liked the series of stories alternating between two characters who are tangentially connected by the friendship between their parents.

As to whether Lahiri is a better short story writer or novelist; I'm still unqualified to have an opinion. Her short stories are awfully good, however. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | May 28, 2014 |
I intended to give this book only 2 stars but bumped it up to 3 based solely upon the strength of the final 3 stories in the collection. I include below both my first assessment (based upon Part I of the book) and my final assessment:
Predictable storytelling: 100% character-driven, relationship-based. Lahiri's theme is the family: parent/child, sibling, & spousal relationships. She explores second generation immigrant (here, East Indian) conflicts with parental expectations as well as expectations of self and resistance to same. This is not new territory, since there are many Anglo-American-Indian authors who have written stories and novels exploring similar terrain. I enjoyed Lahiri’s novel The Namesake, but find this collection of stories to be rather tedious. Perhaps, it’s only that to make such narrative formulas work, the author requires the novel form. The stories themselves are rather thin. Where Lahiri is best (and most subtle) is in her depiction of the silences, the accommodations, the frustrated desires and ambitions and the sometimes grace in the marriages of the first generation immigrants (particularly Ruma’s father in the title story, “Unaccustomed Earth”).
Having reluctantly stuck with the book to the end, I was ultimately glad that I hung in there, for Part Two: “Hema and Kaushik,” composed of three linked stories, proved a more gratifying read than the stories of Part One. The three stories in Part Two, “Once in a Lifetime,” “Year’s End,” and “Going Ashore,” constitute a quasi-novella and bear out my suspicion that Lahiri should stick to the novel form, for which she shows much talent. The story form might be useful to her as a laboratory for developing characters, but once she has these in sight, she should go the distance and write them a novel.
Interestingly, although the stories involving Hema and Kaushik are dependent upon the same character-driven, relationship-based scaffold as the earlier stories that I found to be so tedious and flawed, in this case, the structure works. I became involved with the somewhat ill-fated Hema and Kaushik to the point of not caring whether or not the rest of the world was involved in their story or not (and to a certain extent, it was).
( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
Lahiri's lyric prose is built from attention to detail and emotion, revolving around immigration and coming-of-age stories that ring true with readers across cultures. The first part of this novel will ring familiar to readers already accustomed to Lahiri's work, and may even come across as repetitive or less striking. Yet, in the second part of this collection, all of her beauty and power strikes through.

In the first part, each story is separate, the characters reminiscent of those she explored in Interpreter of Maladies, her first collection. The stories are lovely in and of themselves...but they are not so unique or powerful, maybe particularly to readers already familiar with her work since these stories pursue the same themes already so often explored in her works.

Yet, the second part of this collection is a trio of linked stories which are as unique, powerful, and disarming as anything else she has written. I admit: in the first portion of this work, I wasn't bored...but I wasn't so sure I'd seek her work out in the future. In the second portion, I couldn't bring myself to put the work down. As when I first discovered her work, her characters and her prose disarmed me and brought me near to tears, striking as anything I've read in recent years.

Read the first part for her lovely attention to detail, to characters, to emotion, and to polished writing. Read the second part for her unique power, and for what we look for in fiction with each story we escape to.

Recommended, absolutely. ( )
2 vote whitewavedarling | May 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 150 (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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:07 -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.

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