Navin's Reviews > Unaccustomed Earth

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
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's review
Oct 04, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: short-stories, lick-them-up
Recommended for: Everyone who loves short stories
Read in November, 2011 — I own a copy

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 control that she so readily displayed in her previous books. Every tale put in here is a realization, a constant comparison of feelings, at times against a certain person, at times an object or even a lost period.
Having said that, the narrative moves naturally without the burden of climax. Never for a moment did I feel that there was an impetus on arriving somewhere. That, of course doesn’t take away from the fact that each story is fitting and final as it ends.
There are no heroes, no monsters. Just ordinary people driving, buying groceries, trying their best to love or just waiting. Her style is very close to how the pundits would like it. The prose is sparse, minimal and crisp. Here functionality triumphs form and both join forces to awe and shock in parts. The characters’, their surroundings, stay with you long after you have shut the book. I came back to write this review months after I read the book. I wanted to rest them in my head.
There is another immaculate quality to how she approaches a story and delivers it. Unlike the norm today of expansive stories that break walls, and create whole new worlds, Jumpha’s stories contract. She is may be like a frozen oasis when compared to other excellent imagineering writers of our time. Ravishing indeed.
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Katie Very well said! I felt the same. Thank you for sharing.

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