Monday, May 25, 2009

Short Story Report: Unaccustomed Earth

Source: Unaccustomed Earth (2008) by Jhumpa Lahiri
Date Read: May, 2009 (#5)
Briefly: A woman's father comes to stay with her and her young son, for the first time since the recent death of her mother.
Afterthoughts: This is the title story for the collection, which I downloaded to my mp3 player from the library. The audio version is read by two narrators, to reflect the shifting points of view between Ruma and her father.

Ruma has been struggling to settle in to a new city (Seattle) with her young family while grieving the unexpected death of her mother. Her Indian roots contribute to a confused sense of duty--is she remiss by not asking her widowed father to move in with her, now that her mother has died? Her relationship with him has never been close, and as he arrives for a week-long visit she finds herself resenting him for not being the parent her mother would be. Meanwhile her father is, in his own way, trying to connect with Ruma and her son, his grandson.

I loved this story. There's so much wrapped up in this week-long visit. I related to both of the main characters more readily than those in Interpreters of Maladies. The theme of family, and striking the balance between family-of-origin and newly-created-family, is a favorite of mine. Several times I found Lahiri's way of putting things was so succinctly true to me, that it made me say "Huh!" out loud--which somehow feels sillier when listening with headphones than when reading a book, why is that? It's not like anyone heard me.

Notable Quotes: "You're always welcome here, Baba," she'd told her father on the phone. "You know you don't have to ask." Her mother would not have asked. "We're coming to see you in July," she would have informed Ruma, the plane tickets already in hand. There had been a time in her life when such presumptuousness would have angered Ruma. She missed it now.

11 comments:

  1. I recently read Unaccustomed Earth this and loved it.

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  2. It sounds like it contains very touching stories.

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  3. I've got Jhumpa Lahiri on my must read list but haven't read any of her work yet.

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  4. If I may go back to the two voices-- How did you feel about having two readers for the narrators? Did you feel it came too close to having it turned into a "radio drama"? Or was it the right choice?

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  5. John, the two readers worked well. They didn't switch off in mid-dialogue like a radio drama (I don't think I would've minded that, though), but instead the female reader narrated all the voices when in Ruma's p.o.v., and the male reader did so when the story shifted to Ruma's father's p.o.v.

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  6. I so need to get my hands on this book! She's one of my absolute favourite short story writers.

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  7. I really loved this collection. I think my fave story was the one about the grad student who had a crush on his roommate... I forget the name of it. I'm sure you'll hear them all!

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  8. Summer, I'm only on the second one, Hell and Heaven, which is a girl remember her mom's special friendship with a younger man. Thanks for the preview. :-)

    Nymeth, I like this one much more than Interpreter of Maladies, so I'll be interested to see if you do too.

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  9. Really nice review! I loved Interpreter of Maladies, but haven't read this collection yet. I own it and am looking forward to it!

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  10. I loved this collection when I listened to it, too! Unaccustomed Earth was my favorite of the stories. I thought it worked really well with two narrators.

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