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!''