Unaccustomed Earth

…by Jhumpa Lahiri.

This book is a collection of the following 8 short stories

    1. Unaccustomed Earth…about Ruma and her widowed father, who comes to visit her in her new home in Seattle. The story revolves around Ruma’s dilemma as to whether or not she wants to extend an invitation to her father to come and settle down with her family and her father’s uncertainty about if or not he should tell his daughter about the woman he met (and liked) during his recent tour.
    2. Hell-Heaven…about a Bengali family settled in Massachusetts. The story is deals how they welcome a Bengali guy (student) into their family, how the wife develops a liking towards him because he seems to be emotionally more available than her husband ever was, how she’s heart breaks when he (the boy) gets into a stable relationship with an American girl and eventually gets married to her.
    3. A Choice of Accommodations…about Amit and his wife Mega who attend the wedding of once-upon-a-time-Amit’s-crush Pam. The story narrates how Amit feels about Megan after being married to her for so many years and after 2 beautiful daughters, if or not Amit still has feelings for Pam, what happens at the wedding. etc.
    4. Only Goodness…about Sudha and her brother, Rahul. The story revolves around how Rahul’s alcohol addiction affects the lives of Sudha, her parents and her family (husband and son). Sudha introduces Rahul to alcohol and feels guilty about it when it becomes an addiction for him. He drops out from school and runs away from the family. Years later, he returns to meet Sudha, tells her that he’s clean. Does she believe him? Does he live up to his words? Does anything go wrong after?
    5. Nobody’s Business…about Sang, her boyfriend Farouk and her house mate Paul. The story details Sang’s life after she moves into an apartment with Paul and Heather…about how Paul develops a liking for her, what problems she has with her boyfriend, how Paul receives a phone call when Sang is away from the country and how that call changes the dynamics of their relationship.


The last three stories are about
Hema and Kaushik

  1. Once in a Lifetime…when they in their early teens. Kaushik’s family moves from USA to India only to return few years down the line. When they come back, they stay with Hema’s family until they find the perfect house. During this time, little Hema develops a crush on Kaushik, which isn’t reciprocated in any way. One day, Kaushik tells Hema the reason why they had to come back to the USA. And then his family moves to their own place, after which the two families lose touch.
  2. Year’s End…Kaushik is now in college, his mom has passed away few years ago, and to his surprise / shock, his Dad returns from one of his visits to India with a wife and two step daughters. This part is about how Kaushik deals with the new family. Does he accept them with open heart? Does he avoid them totally? Is he mad at his father? All that.
  3. Going Ashore…when Kaushik and Hema are in their late thirties – Hema, after a failed relationship, is now engaged to be married to Navin. But she meets Kaushik accidentally in Italy and a relationship develops between them. But she realizes that Kaushik isn’t ready for marriage, so she goes ahead with her wedding with Navin even though Kaushik asks her not to. And something unfortunate happens after.

Phew. Now this is what my thoughts are after reading the book –

When I started reading it, I liked it. The first couple of stories kept me going…family ties, emotional dilemmas, cultural struggles – everything pointed out in a nice way. But it got too monotonous from there. It was always about the problems, and there was no other angle to the stories. No humor, nothing. Always a sad / problematic atmosphere in each family. There was nothing at all to make me smile. And I couldn’t understand why. I know that the stories try to deal with issues as such, but then it gets too boring if that’s all there is. There’s no variety, no life to the stories.

Maybe that’s the bottom line, maybe that’s the bitter reality…but that just put me to sleep. Eight different stories with almost the same theme doesn’t work…not for me.

The author’s writing style is admirable. She builds well on the characters and the plot. But other than that, I can’t say more because this book totally did not work for me.

So overall, I found it extremely dull after reading the first couple of chapters.

My rating: 2*.

*for the rating scale, click here.

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14 comments on “Unaccustomed Earth

  1. BlueMist says:

    Exactly my thoughts. I could not proceed after first 2-3 thoughts. It is all about issues; extra marital affairs and stuff. Very negative vibes. Honestly the life outside India is difficult but not that sad and negative. Her books are becoming repetitive sadly enough.

    • Titaxy says:

      I know. too much negativity, but for some reason I can’t stop without finishing the book if I start reading one. Weird. So I had to go thru with it and read it all 😀

      I understand that life isn’t a bed of roses…but it isn’t all sadness as she makes it look like. If it were a novel, then she might have had the chance to put together other emotions and such. But this was just too bad.

      • BlueMist says:

        Ironically I loved her earlier books; Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies. So I had much enthusiasm to order this book over net. and I regretted. 😦

      • Titaxy says:

        I’ve read namesake couple years ago…it was fine. Never got a chance to read Interpreter of Maladies although I’ve heard great reviews about it…so definitely will read sometime 🙂

  2. Nu says:

    I agree with your review T..it was saddening book…but the writing style was good…

  3. Hmmm…I was actually trying to get my hands on this book but after your review I may just wait until the next time I go to India and then get it (cheaper books there…esp those by Indian authors!)

  4. Smitha says:

    So agree with your review. There was something one sided and almost depressing about it. It was a bit of a let-down for me too 😦

  5. “Maybe that’s the bottom line, maybe that’s the bitter reality…but that just put me to sleep. Eight different stories with almost the same theme doesn’t work…not for me.”

    u said it for me 🙂 infact i think there are lot of indian authors who are going this track and i am bored of this genre now

  6. NS says:

    I read her Interpreter of Maladies. I loved her writing style but you are right, most stories are sad; about problems. That leaves one gloomy.

  7. NS says:

    I just started reading this one.. Finished the first 2 stories. Absolutely LOVED Hell-Heaven. I find these stories an improvement over Interpreter of Maladies..

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