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BOOK REVIEW: UNACCUSTOMED EARTH
BY JHUMPA LAHIRI

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Jhumpa Lahiri won three major awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, with her first published work INTERPRETER OF MALADIES, a wonderful collection of short stories. Continuing her examination of the immigrant experience in the United States, her novel THE NAMESAKE met similar acclaim and was sold to Hollywood, becoming the basis of a motion picture issued a year or so ago.

So I picked up her newest collection of short stories rather cautiously, hoping for a repeat of my earlier reading pleasure; but also prepared for a let down. I shouldn't have worried. This latest collection more than lives up to the promise of her first two books.

The title story, set in Seattle sets the tone. It features a father and daughter finding new pleasures in each other and establishing new limits to their relationship as the father comes to terms with widowhood, and the daughter learns a new appreciation for her father's personality and spirit.

Lahiri was born into a Bengali family living in London, and her earlier books were focused on the Bengali immigrant experience in the West. While she continues this emphasis, this collection begins to depart from that pattern. One of the most poignant of the stories is told from the point of view of an American man and relates his friendship with a Bengali woman. His clumsy attempts to help her leave an abusive relationship are told in one of the stories.

Echoes of one of the themes of THE NAMESAKE resound through the final trio of stories. Two young Bengali's meet as children in Massachusetts. Their paths drift apart, and they meet by chance many years later while each is living in Rome. Their shared history leads to a short, romantic interlude - almost too perfect to continue. Each of the first two stories is written as if each one recalls for the other the early years of their acquaintance. And the third, relating the weeks they shared in Italy, has one of the most poignant closing sentences I have ever read. UNACCUSTOMED EARTH is another treasure from one of today's best authors. Don't miss it!

REVIEWED BY WOODSTOCK

DO NOT REPRINT WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE REVIEWER, WOODSTOCK


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