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Unaccustomed Earth Hardcover – 2008

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf; 1st Edition edition (2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307265730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307265739
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 3.2 x 22 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #145,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Paperback
It takes a rare and particular talent to write captivating short stories; the author must perfectly craft every word, every sentence, in order to develop character, plot and intrigue in a limited space. Jhumpa Lahiri may just be the best short story writer I've ever read. Her first collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer in 2000 but I think her newest collection, Unaccustomed Earth (2008), is even more phenomenal. Lahiri's stories always feature characters of Bengali descent who reside in America but they are far from formulaic. In the title story, Brooklyn-to-Seattle transplant Ruma frets about a presumed obligation to bring her widower father into her home, a stressful decision taken out of her hands by his unexpected independence. In another, the alcoholism of Rahul is described by his elder sister, Sudha, who struggles with her own disappointment, bewilderment and sense of duty. And in the loosely linked trio of stories closing the collection, the lives of Hema and Kaushik intersect over the years, first in 1974 when she is six and he is nine; then a few years later when, at 13, she swoons at the now-handsome 16-year-old teen's reappearance; and again in Italy, when she is a 37-year-old academic about to enter an arranged marriage, and he is a 40-year-old photojournalist. Lahiri's stories are surprising, aesthetically marvelous and shaped by a sure and provocative sense of inevitability. I can only echo what Amy Tan wrote in a review: Lahiri is 'the kind of writer who makes you want to grab the next person you see and say, 'Read this!''
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By ELI (Italy) TOP 500 REVIEWER on Jan. 7 2010
Format: Paperback
Unusual because it starts off as a collection of short stories. It is only after a while that a few of the depicted characters resurface merging into the last stories. This fact aside, I really found this to be a lovely book. Its gist, in my opinion, is a view of life with cohabiting separate cultures. It is not however a "typical" book about immigration, in this case life in the USA seen from different points of view, by either first/second/third generation people who, for different reasons, all end up in the USA from India. Granted that for some, traditional lifestyle and heritage was quite influencing (especially for some of the older characters) however what I liked was that a part from the common denominator of being Indian, what this book really explores is... life. Life in general, with its ups & downs, hopes, failures, successes, expectations, pain, love, families, children. Universal themes. Life.

And that is what I found really charming about the whole book. Most characters are well depicted, each short story has a different purpose and meaning. My favourites were "Unaccustomed Earth" and "Going Ashore" (first and last stories). The end is unexpected, tragic, however in my opinion it befits the tale.
This was my first book by Jhumpa Lahiri but I'll look out for more.
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Format: Paperback
I'm not usually a big fan of the short story genre but to me, "Unaccustomed Earth" is definitely one of the better collections out there. The stories are generally set around middle-class Indian families living in North America. To me, I found the stories to be genuine and relatable. There tends to be an Orientalist view of every immigrant coming from the East or Latin America or Africa as poor and destitute. That is obviously not the case, and Lahiri accurately captures their lives with great lucidity.

As for the writing itself, Lahiri is one of those writers that uses the power of suggestion. It is precisely what is not said, but implied, which forces the audience to confront their own emotions of reacting to the situations. The last story, "Going Ashore" is perhaps the best example of this style. It definitely requires a sharp eye, and a keen sense, to unravel what is being 'suggested', but that is what is so enjoyable about the stories in this book.
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