Used to pain, Unaccustomed to life

Jhumpa Lahiri’s narratives have always been about life, love and loss, in equal measures. All her books, The Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth, deal with one common overarching theme : adjustment. In the most recent of her books, Unaccustomed Earth, a compilation of short stories, she traces the lives of first or second generation migrant Bengalis in the USA. The stories deal with death, displacement, compromise and all that accompanies these themes in real life.

A woman and her father move on with life once the only thing that connects them, the wife and mother, has died of cancer. Another woman watches her mother fall in love with another man, sees her heart shattered, and tries to understand her values, the only thing that bind her mother to her father. The second half of the book is a novella of sorts, tracing the lives of a Bengali girl and boy, who grow up together, yet apart, through the trying circumstances of their separate lives. Falling in love eventually, only to lose it finally, the tragedy of their shared life is the reckless timing, even of nature.

All the stories reflect a despondency we are all familiar with, acquired through the harsh blows life doles out to us every now and then. But through the mild sense of the blues this book might envelop the you in, you sense the maturity of her characters and of their responses to everyday tragedies and the less commonplace dilemmas that accompany starting new lives in newer surroundings. The book is a good read for a languid winter afternoon, when you want to contemplate on the true meanings of everything that goes on around us.

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