Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

I finished reading this last week, but with the release of The Sims 3 my time spent online has been reduced significantly (the same as time spent sleeping or talking to others but that’s another story, possibly for the Simaholics Anonymous…).

Anyway, I had a change of heart about this book somewhere close to the end. I liked the first story, but it felt a bit underwhelming. The following three stories, although interesting and very well-written bored me a little. But then, the fifth story caught my interest for some reason, even though it deals with the same relationship issues as the previous stories. I don’t think it’s the book’s fault really, I generally prefer longer novels than short stories. I don’t know, it just feels like nothing really happens in a short story…

Now, the second part consists of three stories which are related, all three stories make up the story of two people. These I loved! Hema and Kaushik alternate as the narrators and we basically see how they journeyed through their lives, coming together for a tiny little bit of time and then being separated forever. I actually thought there would be a happy ending: these two people who belonged together will finally find each other and realize everything they’ve been through has led them there… Boy was I wrong. The ending was very sad but beautiful at the same time, and actually that’s the feeling the whole book left me.

The author has an amazing ability to write about the complexities of relationships, especially in families. In very simple language she can describe the character’s complicated feelings and most private thoughts. I think the book also offers a very good insight to the life, culture and particular ay of thinking of Indian immigrants in the US.

Ok, so quotes… I loved the opening quote which is actually from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The custom house:

Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in th 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.”

A very nice quote about the strangeness of suddenly not existing.

But death too, had the power to awe, she knew this now – that a human being could be alive for years and years, thinking and breathing and eating, full of a million worries and feelings and thoughts, taking up space in the world, and then in an instant, become absent, invisible.”

I found the following quote a bit silly, because it is a well known fact that Mediterranean men, Italians and Greeks especially, will flirt with anyone! It doesn’t matter if you are madly in love, engaged, married or a nun, chances are if you are decent looking they will flirt with you!

During her years with Julian, even when she was by herself, men had sensed that her heart was taken, that she would not pause to consider them, as if she were a passing taxi with its off-duty light on. But now, thought she was engaged, she was aware of the Roman men who looked at her, sometimes called out. And thought she was flattered by their attentions, it reminded her that her hear did not belong to Navin in the same way.

This is the quote that made me hope for a happy ending in Hema and Kaushik’s story:

It was unquestioned that they would not part yet, unquestioned that though they had not seen or thought of each other in decades, not sought each other out, something precious had been stumbled upon, a newborn connection that could not be left unattended, that demanded every particle of their care.

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