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2012 Book Discussions > Unaccustomed Earth - A Choice of Accommodations, No Spoilers Please (September 2012)

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message 1: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (last edited Aug 31, 2012 03:10AM) (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
What is the significance of the title “A Choice of Accommodations”?

What does it imply about Amit and Megan’s marriage?

Why do you think Lahiri chose to set the story at Amit’s old prep school?

Do you think the events of the weekend bring Amit a better sense of who he is, what he wants and needs from Megan, and his role as a husband and father?

Will the weekend change anything for Amit and Megan and their relationship?



message 2: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 738 comments Mod
I wasn't able to see any allusions in the title beyond the face value element of hotel vs dorm. I'm interested to hear what others can dig up.

For me, the pivotal moment of the story was Amit's realization, during his conversation with Felicia, that his marriage disappeared after their second child was born. That was a profound self-revelation for him, and the accusation has enough substance to ring true. Yet after the inner moping and wallowing in self-pity, Amit proceeds to blunder directly into a relationship-destroying moment by accidentally leaving Megan at the school. Where he was consumed with his notions of Megan leaving him with the work of keeping the relationship together, he is now confronted with the reality that he may very well be the one that severs the thread.

We are left hanging in suspense for quite some time, but I was very glad to leave on a tentatively happy note. The easy comment would be to state that Amit will never take their relationship for granted again, and this seems like a time where the easy comment is the best.


message 3: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
I think the title refers to the various ‘accommodations’ that Amit’s parents picked for him, choosing - at one point - to accommodate him in a Boarding School whilst they returned to India. Still, he refused to forgive them” speaks volumes about his feelings for his parents. And goes some way to explain why he dotes on his own children - he could never imagine parting with them.

I was left feeling dissatisfied by this story. On the one hand most of us will know how it feels when a romantic get-away goes wrong, but how often are marriages ‘fixed’ by the admission that one merely had a crush on a potential rival. Is that all it takes: to admit a guilty secret?

I suspect that this marriage will fail, in the long term. Any shortcomings in this inter-racial marriage are not due to the Western partner, but to a Bengali man who is hopelessly out of touch with himself. His insecurities cripple him, such that he fails to enjoy his blessings for fear of losing them.

So, another story about a marriage - and another story about a marriage of convenience? Another accommodation?


message 4: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 738 comments Mod
Sophia: I love the fact that you could so easily connect with the previous story, yet feel dissatisfied about this one. It's more or less a reversal of my own response.

I didn't see the "guilty secret" as a pivotal hinge at all. It was undoubtedly a marital irritant, and the telling of it was a milestone event, but the admission wasn't the problem solver to me. I mentioned my take on the pivotal moment in my first post, and I think it holds. The marriage is set on the course to be "fixed" when Amit realizes that he is not the perfect husband overworking himself to keep the family functioning. The "guilty secret" is ancillary to the bigger issues, and I think it's more symbolic of a new yet fragile trust that is developing after Amit's epic failure of the previous night. I actually have a lot of hope for this marriage, because this one catastrophic event has shown Amit that it's not just senseless events of chance that could take away all that he holds dear (as he fears for in his hypothetical nightmares).

I'm not sure whether you intended a play on words at the end of your post, but it was interesting. Is the title perhaps reflecting Amit's selective choosing of which of Megan's needs to accommodate? The choice between hanging on to his past or accommodating his future? I think I like that reading of the title.


message 5: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
I wish I could believe that something fundamental had changed here.


message 6: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Mod
One of the most interesting facets was the tear in Megan's skirt. I think it is meant (and succeeds) to serve as a metaphor. It's a small ice of damage. It's not immediately apparent until you know it's there. But if you focus on it it's all you can see.


message 7: by Daniel (new)

Daniel | 738 comments Mod
Nice insight, Deborah. And, of course, it metaphorically threatens to unravel the whole garment (or marriage).


message 8: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
I've been thinking about this burn. I saw the metaphor as representing something about Megan's vulnerability and a need to accept imperfection.


message 9: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Daniel wrote: "I'm not sure whether you intended a play on words at the end of your post, but it was interesting. Is the title perhaps reflecting Amit's selective choosing of which of Megan's needs to accommodate? "

I think the title is a play on words. Accommodations have to be made in most marriages.


message 10: by Glenn (new)

Glenn | 14 comments Perhaps the accommodations both Amit and Megan make will be the fundamental change capable of saving their marriage. Megan accommodates Amit's weakness and confusion at the end of the story, which is only possible because she sees where he spent some of his formative years and the effect they have had on his self-confidence and sense of identity.

Lahiri seems to suggest as much with Megan's response to the dorm room at the end of the story. Amit is ashamed, refusing to accept that the building where he went to school could be a perfect place for him and his wife. Megan, on the other hand, is attracted to the dorm room and what it represents of her husband's past. I think this understanding is new to their marriage and allows a possible reconciliation at the end of the story.

It seems to me that what will determine whether this marriage survives is whether Amit can accommodate Megan's needs as well as his own weaknesses. Going back to his past made him selfish and isolated for the bulk of the story, but if he's able to come to terms with this part of himself he may be able to give more of himself to Megan.


message 11: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Glenn wrote: "Megan, on the other hand, is attracted to the dorm room and what it represents of her husband's past. I think this understanding is new to their marriage and allows a possible reconciliation at the end of the story."

Perhaps you're right. It feels significant that they made love there.


message 12: by Julie (last edited Sep 28, 2012 09:30AM) (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 196 comments Sophia wrote: "but how often are marriages ‘fixed’ by the admission that one merely had a crush on a potential rival. Is that all it takes: to admit a guilty secret?

I didn't think his admission was the main fix to their marriage. I do think the secret was weighing on him and it could help by getting rid of that burden, but like Daniel, I think his realization that their marriage was not so good when he was talking to Felicia was very important (as well as his screwup in leaving Megan alone). Whether or not, he continues to think of this realization and works on it or goes back to his old ways, we'll never know. But it's a step.


message 13: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 196 comments Sophia wrote: "I've been thinking about this burn. I saw the metaphor as representing something about Megan's vulnerability and a need to accept imperfection."

Interesting idea.
It was funny how they made the decision to stick together for the night to hide the burn but failed at it when they got separated after she went to the restroom. Could that be symbolic of their entire marriage?


message 14: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (last edited Sep 28, 2012 11:47AM) (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
(Giggle) It could well be. My feeling is that Amit needs Megan a lot more than she needs him...


message 15: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "I do think the secret was weighing on him and it could help by getting rid of that burden, but like Daniel, I think his realization that their marriage was not so good when he was talking to Felicia was very important (as well as his screwup in leaving Megan alone). "

Yes, it often happens that when you articulate how things really are, to yourself, that you gain considerable insight. I like what you say about the burden of the 'secret' - that it was important for Amit to get it out of his system. Do you think he has many friends? I gain the impression that he's quite isolated.


message 16: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 196 comments He did seem isolated


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