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Unaccustomed Earth
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Manufacturer: Knopf
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Binding: Hardcover
Dewey Decimal Number: 813.54
EAN: 9780307265739
ISBN: 0307265730
Label: Knopf
Manufacturer: Knopf
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 352
Publication Date: 2008-04-01
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: 2008-04-01
Studio: Knopf

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Editorial Reviews:

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.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Another well-written Lahiri book
Comment: For those who have already read Ms. Lahiri's stories before and would like to have more of the same (trials and tribulations of Indian immigrants in a new country)this is a perfect sequel. Apart from that, it is a lovely book to read too that I enjoyed every bit. However, as Ms Lahiri shows great talent as a writer the next time she comes out with her new work I am really hoping that she branches out a bit and tries her hand at something not necessarily pulled from that same source. I am even interested in the trials of tribulations of Indians who go back to India after 30 yrs in the US and trying to adapt back to what they thought they left behind and found that they are now immigrants in their home country.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Human nature and Indian culture in a beautiful collection of stories
Comment: Jhumpa Lahiri has done it again. What a beautiful collection of stories. Some previous reviewers have been critical of her material, but I continue to find her characters interesting both in their very human situations and in their cultural diversity. The fist thing you are taught in a writing class is to "write about what you know." Lahiri does this with amazing style and insight. While her characters may be, for the most part, Bengali, the situations they are in are universal. As in her previous works, you can get a sense of Lahiri's own past, and that is wonderful.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Another great book by Lahiri
Comment: Yes, we've been here before, as one reviewer says. But "predictable", NO. Lahiri writes about Bengalis who have left their country to raise their families in the US. The themes are recurring, some of the characters are similar and have similar experiences. You get the feeling that many of them probably know each other. But the characters are full-bodied and their stories have all of the immediacy and unexpected turns of real life. (The second generation gets a few surprises from their parents in this collection.) Her pitch-perfect word choice is enough to keep me reading. Just as when I finished her other books, I want more!

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Competent But Could Have Been Great
Comment: When "The Interpreter of Maladies" was published in 2000 the only word one could use to describe Jhumpa Lahiri is phenom. Almost fifty years ago the young Southern writer Carson McCullers stunned the literary establishment with her debut novel "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," and here was another young unknown writer expressing the extraordinarily emotional moments of the everyday and ordinary in pristine and polished, mature and haunting prose.

"Unaccustomed Earth" is Jhumpa Lahiri's second collection of short stories. The title story is about a father, who recently lost his wife and who visits his daughter for one week. It's a story of two different people who have always misunderstood each other dealing in different ways with the grief of losing the most important person in their life. The father feels liberated, having thought that his wife was too demanding and strident. Recently retired he has also happily found a companion for his world travels. His daughter Ruma, who was very close with her mother, never allows herself to grieve, and instead opts to throw herself into motherhood, trying hard to repeat her mother's life. She leaves a legal career to focus on raising her son, is pregnant with a second child, and -- just like her mother -- is silently angry at a successful but absent husband.

Ruma takes one step further in becoming her mother by asking her father to stay with her. The father, now much wiser and freer, refuses, and wants to tell Ruma about his new companion but can't quite bring himself to doing it. In the end he subconsciously leaves a postcard to his companion where it can be easily found, and upon finding it Ruma is at first hurt and angry but finally mails it herself, thereby finally freeing her father.

This first story is by far the best story in this collection, and the rest in Lahiri's book disappoint with their triviality and inconsequence -- the biggest disappointment is a three-part saccharine story of two star-struck lovers which is just lame and silly.

There are two stories though that if developed to their full potential could have been great. There is a story of an Indian boy who goes to an elite American boarding school, and falls in love with the headmaster's daughter Pam, the symbol and embodiment of what he could never obtain. Two decades later he finds closure by attending Pam's wedding at the boarding school, where he makes passionate love with his wife in the same dorm room where he spent his teenage years haunted by his social ostracization.

And then there's another story of a sister and her alcoholic brother, and the hint that the gifted and handsome younger brother fell into alcoholism because of his devout love for his sister. It was she who snuck beer cans into his room, and when she went to college and they could no longer be together he might have turned to alcohol just to be with her again.

In both stories the promise that there's something deep and disturbing lurking under the surface is subtle. But it's way too subtle.

Jhumpa Lahiri is an extremely gifted writer, far more talented than any of her peers but it just doesn't seem as though she's trying hard enough. Lahiri needs to wrestle with her characters more, break away from them, and probe deeper into their dark psychologies. Her talent and her wisdom rival those of Raymond Carver -- the master of the short story -- and she needs to study more the brevity and depth of his prose. Lahiri's stories can be powerfully affecting at her best but Carver at his best is just absolutely devastating -- the beautiful poignancy of his prose reveals that he is haunted and plagued by his perceptions and understanding of the human condition in a way that no one can fully appreciate.

Alas, Lahiri's prose is beautiful and compelling enough for her to be able to get away with predictable plotlines and underdeveloped characters. Carson McCullers would never achieve the same success she had with her debut, and after reading "Unaccustomed Earth" one must wonder if Lahiri would share McCullers' fate.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5
Summary: We've Been Here Before
Comment: Lahiri's work has become predictable: children of middle or upper class Bengali immigrants adopt American customs, causing consternation to their traditional parents/family. Most of this isn't even especially well written. She had some earlier successes, notably the Third and Final Continent, but this is just getting boring.

Most of her characters suffer the same life altering but not necessarily fatal flaw: unwilling to accept familial change, they simply turn away. Thus, a young man walks out on his father when he fails to connect with his new stepmother and step sisters and a young mother lets her father walk out of her life when she begins to suspect his travel companion is actually a girlfriend.

In July '08, the Frank O'Connor Short Story prize committee announced that it was taking the unusual step of announcing Lahiri as the annual contest's outright winner rather that pare the long list of almost 40 names down to five and then announcing the winner at the festival. Apparently, the judges found her work to be so superior to the other nominees that they felt suspense was unwarranted. I for my part don't see it. The irony is that given the breadth of Frank O'Connor's work--childhood, love, soldiership, and on and on--Lahiri seems limited to the same old characters and ideas.

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