Unaccustomed Earth
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Unaccustomed Earth

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  48,054 ratings  ·  5,751 reviews
Knopf Canada is proud to welcome this bestselling, Pulitzer Prize—winning author with eight dazzling stories that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life.

In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father who carefully tends her garden–where she later unearths e...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Knopf Canada (first published 2008)
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Molly
The title of Lahiri’s latest book—Unaccustomed Earth—refers to the first story in this collection but also to a motif dominating all of the stories: tales about a world unaccustomed to the shifts and changes taking place on its surface, a world uncomfortable with the destruction and loss brought on by hurricanes and tsunamis, unfamiliar with modern diseases and traumas, and unsure about the class and cultural conflicts that dominate relationships in the lives of Lahiri’s characters. The earth th...more
Sonal
As I progressed through the first four stories, I became more and more angry. I couldn't understand why Lahiri would put out another book that was almost identical to to her first. She seemed to have retreated even further into her "safe space", writing only about Bengali Americans who study at ivy league schools, have well educated albeit maladjusted parents and struggle with redefining relationships after relocation. I expected a lot more when I read the title and its reference to Nathaniel Ha...more
Barbara
I have often stated that I do not enjoy short stories, but although this is designated as such, it oversimplifies the content of this book. With understated elegance, Lahiri has drawn in the reader to become immersed in tales of families, lovers and friends. She has the unique ability to simply, but fascinatingly communicate the features of the characters' behaviors, thoughts and emotions. In addition, she is able to express such dimensions so wellthat I felt I had become acquainted with these p...more
Foodie
I have to admit that I was awaiting this book for many months and started reading it with a preconceived notion that the literary journey I was about to embark upon was one of immense finesse and depth. Some might argue that this mindset might cast a cloak on the negative qualities of the novel thereby making the stories more appealing. I've thought about this and beg to differ. Expectations of this height are hard to live by and many a (famous) novel have fallen short. Unaccustomed Earth did no...more
Ian
A real disappointment after her first two books. Doing away with both the emotional gut-punches of displacement and desperation found in "Interpreter of Maladies" and the elegiac generational sweep of "The Namesake," Lahiri in "Unaccustomed Earth" zeroes in on the least interesting dimension of her usual subjects: the interior monologues of fully assimilated, second-generation Indian-Americans who are ungratefully dissatisfied with their lives of privilege. Her formerly melancholic insight and p...more
jo
i think that, as short story collections go, this one is up there with the great masterpieces -- flannery o'connor, hawthorne, raymond carver, nadine gordimer, alice munro (the writers who come to mind are the ones who straightforwardly explore the torments of the human heart). the most extraordinary feeling i have about it is that i glided from story to story without having much of a sense of interruption. the stories flow into each other, having to do with people who are different (in age, gen...more
Teresa
Perhaps a new term needs to be used for short stories such as these. Each one is jam-packed with details that never bog down; each one is as dense and rich as a novel. The writing never falters; it is always smooth, flowing and self-assured.

Of course the last 3 stories could be a novella, and we are lucky not to have to buy a separate book to experience them.

Wonderful characters, wonderful stories, wonderful writing.
Kristen
Ever since I read Lahiri's first collection of stories, "Interpreter of Maladies," when it was published some years ago, I've had a hard time figuring out just why I find her fiction so incredibly appealing and moving and memorable. Her writing style isn't particularly innovative, and she sticks to a fairly narrow set of themes: the impact of immigration on those who immigrate and their children, generally viewed through the experiences of Indians who move to the U.S., specifically New England....more
Samir Rawas Sarayji
This won't be a usual review but more of a personal reflection. The reason is that I recently read some reviews and comments of a GR friend ( Aubrey ) who recently read 'The Namesake' by Lahiri and found it to be nothing special and she cited some pretty good reasons to support her case. Then I thought about the two books of Lahiri that I have - both short story collections - and why I had rated them 5 stars each. This is what happens when you feel in sync with such GR friends that they can make...more
Rajat Ubhaykar
It's been some time since I read Unaccustomed Earth. I read it as an impressionable teenager and many of the nuanced impressions that were stamped upon my mind by this book have been more or less washed away by the heavy downpour of classics that has kissed my bookshelf since.

All I can glean out of the dusty recesses of my memory about this excellent collection of Indo-nostalgic short stories is feeling an ephemeral sense of loss. I remember it leaving me in the throes of a synthesized lonelines...more
alex
Dec 04, 2013 alex rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to alex by: alyse
lahiri's writing style is beautiful. while someone once described it as "relentless detail," i like to think of it otherwise. that said, there was something nagging me while reading it that i could neither shake nor put my finger on. then i figured it out. there are two things that bothered me about this book. 1) lahiri seems to be almost obsessed with elite private universities. not a story goes by that doesn't mention harvard, mit, bryn mawr, swarthmore, etc. it's excessive. according to wikip...more
Diane
Lahiri is a treasure. I picked up this collection of short stories because I loved her previous book, The Namesake. These stories all involve Indian families who have moved to the United States and are struggling to adjust. Often there's tension with their children, who only want to fit in with Americans.

I couldn't pick a favorite story in this collection -- they all meant something special to me. I hope you find something in them, too.
Jean
Jun 04, 2008 Jean rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jean by: Popular reviews
Shelves: gave-up
I just never really get into her books...they seem heavy, tedious and plodding to me. After a few hundred pages, I returned this new one to the library. I guess I am just not a fan of this writer. I know she is very popular and you would think I would relate to the culture, but...I'm just not into it. I thought the short stories were predictable and trite to tell the truth.
Dixie Diamond
I kind of liked this. The writing is good but the pace of the stories is v e r y s l o w . . . it seems to take ages to get to the ending. This would be OK except that the endings are really not that astounding; you're left with less of an "Oh, my God" feeling than a "well, duh; what did she expect?" one. The bodies of the stories would have been more in proportion to the ends if the writer had not worked so hard to draw them out. They end up feeling overwritten, and all for nothing.

One also get...more
Kris Kipling
To return to my lecturing days: I automatically gave low marks when a student used the dreadful phrase "sincere and simple" - "Flaubert writes with a style which is always simple and sincere" - under the impression that this was the greatest compliment payable to prose or poetry. When I struck the phrase out, which I did with such rage in my pencil that it ripped the paper, the student complained that this was what teachers had always taught him: "Art is simple, art is sincere." Someday I must t...more
dyh_nyc
To begin, I must disclose that I am a huge Jhumpa Lahiri fan. To me, she is one of the only authors who comes even close to articulating my experience as a child born and raised in the U.S. by immigrant parents, constantly straddling two worlds. I really enjoyed this book -- not nearly as much as I adored "The Namesake" (one of my all-time favorite books!), but more than her collection of short stories, "The Interpreter of Maladies."

This book is a collection of short stories. The first half is c...more
Leanna
After weeks of waiting anxiously, of reading about how good the book is, I finally got my hands on Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth.

The beauty of Lahiri’s writing is in the ordinariness of it. She has an elegant style but does nothing to draw undue attention to the writing itself; she employs no tricks that distract from her narrative. The stories are also about ordinary topics, about regular people. It is in the simplicity of the scenarios that universal truths resound.

“Unaccustomed Earth,” t...more
Sue
Having just finished Unaccustomed Earth, I have to say I thought it was fantastic how Lahiri manages to catch the edge of human interactions--all that we don't say to each other throughout our lives. I really was close to tears at the end of the final story. This is my first experience with her writing other than reading one story. That previous story gave me a glimpse of her skill but now I have the full blown view of a writer who appears to be at a peak of ability.

This has broadened my view of...more
Pragya
Aug 24, 2012 Pragya rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: short-stories lovers
Well, let me tell you first offs, I'm not a big fan of short stories. I was, once upon a time, but not anymore. I appreciate novels more now. You think I should have known this was a short stories book, right? Wrong! How was I supposed to know that with my habit of diving into a book without knowing a thing beforehand? No, I don't read the above summary before reading the book. I know, I know, I'm peculiar that way.

Well then, what happened when I finished reading the first story and went to the...more
Tanya Tanya Tanya!
I feel completely gutted and need to go back and read this again.

Lahiri always leaves me feeling too emotional for my own good and I love it. She takes you to this place of discomfort and displacement within relationships with other people and relationships with culture.

The short stories in the first half of the book leave me wanting more of the characters lives. I simultaneously devoured them and didn't want them to end. They were as good, if not better than her previous published short stori...more
Navin
Mar 19, 2012 Navin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Everyone who loves short stories
Unaccustomed Earth is a short story collection about Bengali immigration in America. Eight stories, divided in two parts. The second part could have well formed a novella. The stories are lush with controlled prose of the emphatic. For me the author’s art lay in exalting the ordinary, letting us know that we too are heroes of our own ordinary lives.
The first story of Ruma is an example of Jumpa’s observatory powers. Although it is the second part of the book that enthralled me with a kind of...more
Suzanne
I really enjoy Lahiri's works. Every word, every image.
Yet, when I read Goodreads Reviews written by Bengali
(? maybe, maybe not) readers, I can understand their criticisms. There does seem to be a formula. The issue of conflict in 1st generation parents with their Westernized children, the fact that almost all of these characters have attended the very best Ivy League and 1st tier universities in the US and have performed exceptionally. (no mention of summer jobs, no mention of student loans o...more
Book'd
Jul 30, 2013 Book'd rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Short-Story Readers
Recommended to Book'd by: Other Lahiri Books
Unaccustomed Earth is Jhumpa Lahiri's yet another collection of most dazzling short-stories of all times making it evident the umpteenth time the kind of prodigious skills she portrays with her art of putting together in words the distressed hearts and confused minds of her characters that are struggling in unknown lands, striving to accept outlandish ways while clutching the bag of their traditional ways close to their hearts and ending up in those neverlands where they find themselves still sl...more
Cynthia
This is a book of short stories, some of which are inter related. Lahiri is so good at depicting what it's like to be in families, in relationships. There's compromise, pig headedness, hidden or displayed anger, suffering both long and short, isolation but most of
all love. What really stood out to me was how even subtle but sometimes big occurences between people who have formed strong bonds can change the trajectory of their lives, in positive or negative ways. The connection never dies. The lo...more
b00k r3vi3ws
After Interpreter of Maladies, this is the second Jhumpa Lahiri book that I have picked up. Yes, at the risk of raising eyebrows from one and many, I have to admit that I haven’t read The Namesake yet.

The first story in the book is ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ and I was lost in this book right from the first page and there’s no use in pretending otherwise. The common theme in all these stories is that they narrate about the NRI lives and their everyday nuisance. Be it a mother daughter bonding, or the r...more
Ben Babcock
I went into this book not knowing what to expect, and I loved it. Jhumpa Lahiri creates timeless families that straddle the cultural divide between America and India. She captures the conflict of growing up as one tries to balance one's parent's wishes with the influence of one's heritage and the culture of one's surroundings.

Of the first part of the book, I loved "Unaccustomed Earth", "Hell-Heaven", and "Only Goodness." The other two stories were great, but those three are my favourite--particu...more
Molly
Lahiri’s new stories, like the Victorian naturalist novels she read while working on them, are all about what her characters do not do and say, how they ultimately, tragically fail to connect with their parents, spouses, children, and soulmates. In other words, these stories lack the scope and the finely drawn class politics of her first collection: like many giants of the short story world, Lahiri brings our attention more than once to the problem of alcoholism in the Ivy League, and deals some...more
Diane D.
Nov 19, 2012 Diane D. rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Ximena
It's been so long since I have read Jhumpa Lahiri and I've had this book since it was published in 2008. And just as I remember, her writing is exquisite, particularly when she writes short stories. I think it takes a very special writer to be able to write short stories well; they have a very limited amount of pages in which to get their readers 'hooked' into the story. Mission accomplished here!

I am going to do synopsis reviews of some of the stories as I read them.

#1 - Unaccustomed Earth - Th...more
Lena

In Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri returns to the short story format of her Pulitzer prize-winning first book, Interpreter of Maladies. Like IoM, the stories in UE explore the experiences of Bengali immigrants in America, and the ways in which the intersection of cultures plays out in the lives of those who do not fully belong to either land.

Each story focuses a lens on a different aspect of the Indian immigrant experience. In the title piece, the fully Americanized daughter of a widower strug...more
Lucy
Many classical composers were masters in the art of variation on a theme in music. Mozart showed off just how many things you could do with the tune "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Jhumpa Lahiri has applied the same principle to the short story and produced a brilliant work of art.

I am not a particular fan of the short story, but Lahiri has convinced me once again that I could be. Her genius, I believe, is that she doesn't waste her time recreating the wheel. She has her story and it is an expe...more
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Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London and brought up in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Brought up in America by a mother who wanted to raise her children to be Indian, she learned about her Bengali heritage from an early age.

Lahiri graduated from South Kingstown High School and later received her B.A. in English literature from Barnard College in 1989. She then received multiple degrees from Boston Un...more
More about Jhumpa Lahiri...
The Namesake Interpreter of Maladies The Lowland The Namesake: A Portrait of the Film Based on the Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri (Newmarket Pictorial Moviebooks) Hell-Heaven

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“He owned an expensive camera that required thought before you pressed the shutter, and I quickly became his favorite subject, round-faced, missing teeth, my thick bangs in need of a trim. They are still the pictures of myself I like best, for they convey that confidence of youth I no longer possess, especially in front of a camera.” 90 likes
“And wasn't it terrible, how much he looked forward to those moments, so much so that sometimes even a ride by himself on the subway was the best part of the day? Wasn't it terrible that after all the work one put into finding a person to spend one's life with, after making a family with that person, even in spite of missing that person...that solitude was what one relished the most, the only thing that, even in fleeting, diminished doses, kept one sane?” 41 likes
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