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Unaccustomed Earth by [Lahiri, Jhumpa]
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Unaccustomed Earth Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Review

Glorious.... Showcases a considerable talent in full bloom. "San Francisco Chronicle
"
Stunning.... Gorgeous.... Never before has Lahiri mined so perfectly the secrets of the human heart. "USA Today"

A testament to Lahiri's emotional wisdom and consummate artistry as a writer. "The New York Times"

Lucid and revelatory.... Both universal and deeply felt. "The Washington Post Book World"

Graceful and devastating.... A gorgeous, meticulous and inviting work ... of an artist wise in enigmas and human mystery. "The Miami Herald"

Powerful.... Profound.... Haunting. "Los Angeles Times Book Review"

Shimmering.... Lahiri's fiction delves deep into the universal theme of isolation. "Fresh Air"

Splendid.... Lahiri handles her characters without leaving any fingerprints. "The New York Times Book Review"

Beautifully rendered.... Reading [Lahiri's] stories is hypnotizing-like falling into a dream. "People" (four stars)

Lahiri steps back from the action, gets out of the way, so the people and things in her stories can exist the way real things do: richly, ambiguously, without explanation. "Time"

Powerful.... Lahiri is a genius of the miniature stroke and the great arc. Elizabeth Taylor, "Chicago Tribune"

Beautifully crafted.... The remarkable poignancy Lahiri achieves in her work ... is the result of tying [her] examination of exile to other, more universal moments of essential sadness in our lives: the death of a parent, the end of a love affair, the ravages of alcoholism on a family. "The Boston Globe"

Shimmering.... The literary prize committees should once again take note.... To read Unaccustomed Earthand only take away an experience of cultural tourism would be akin to reading Dante only to retain how medieval Italians slurped their spaghetti. Lahiri s fiction delves deep into the universal theme of isolation.... Lahiri is a lush writer bringing to life worlds through a pile-up of detail. But somehow all that richness electrifyingly evokes the void.... It s customary when reviewing short story collections to adopt a one from column A, two from column B kind of structure you know, the title story always gets a ritual nod, followed by a run-down of which stories are the strongest, which have just been included for filler. But another stereotype-confounding aspect of Lahiri s writing is that there aren t any weak stories here: every one seems like the best, the most vivid, until you read the next one.... Lahiri ingeniously reworks the situation of characters subsisting at point zero, of being stripped down like Lear on the heath. Unaccustomed Earth""certainly makes a contribution to the literature of immigration, but it also takes its rightful place with modernist tales from whatever culture in which characters find themselves doomed to try and fail to only connect. Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

Peripatetic, sweeping stories Lahiri s best yet which move from Boston to Bombay and back again to evoke intricate topologies of emotion and characters who often feel more at home abroad. [They] possess the gravitational pull of short novels.... The final three stories, a trilogy in which an educated, thoroughly American girl s choice of an arranged marriage over romantic love (a decision Lahiri deftly makes relatable) has cataclysmic repercussions, form the rhapsodic culmination to the collection. Lahiri, a master storyteller who, along with Alice Munro, has arguably done more to reinvigorate the once-moribund form than any other contemporary English-language writer comes full circle with this book, imbued as it is with a sense of passage, of life and death and rebirth. Megan O Grady, "Vogue"

Five of five stars.... Commanding and seamless.... There might not be a better book of fiction by an American writer published this year.... Extraordinary ... The long, absorbing Unaccustomed Earth, the title story [deals with] familiar themes [for Lahiri]: the alienation that Indian immigrant parents feel toward their American-reared children and the guilt those children feel as they assimilate into the melting pot of the U.S. But as she proved in Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake," " Lahiri writes so compellingly about these conflicts and pays such careful attention to the most emotionally telling of details that each story feels freshly minted.... The range of human experiences [Lahiri] chronicles is epic, again and again. [ Hell-Heaven is] a universal story of yearning and unrequited desire, rooted so specifically and powerfully in a sense of time and place that we feel as if we are living right alongside the characters ... For all that s comfortingly familiar about Unaccustomed Earth," "though, one of its chief pleasures is that it shows Lahiri stretching in entirely new directions. In A Choice of Accommodations, for instance, the author serves up a slice of Updike-ian Americana while managing to put her own distinct twist on the proceedings.... Only Goodness, arguably the strongest story in the collection, gets under your skin like nothing Lahiri has written before. The first five stories are varied and accomplished [and the final three] are gripping and affecting ... Whereas so many story collections feel like uneven grab-bags, Unaccustomed Earth seems to have poured forth from the author s pen in one swoop, and it eloquently circles back over the same sets of themes and motifs without growing tired. It s like a symphony in eight movements. Christopher Kelly, Fort Worth "Star-Telegram"

Four stars. Jhumpa Lahiri continues to probe culture and generational clashes among Bengali brethren living in the U.S. (and occasionally abroad) in her penetrating second collection.... No character exists in isolation in Lahiri s new work, which is deeply aware of the power of blood ties; her book is a congregation of siblings, parents, spouses. Neither an exultation of nuclear families nor a cynical catalog of their dysfunction, Unaccustomed Earth is something braver and more difficult: a compassionate inspection of the fissures and disappointments of deep attachment ... trenchant. Whether they are middle-aged mothers who tire of years of keeping house in small Northeastern towns, thousands of miles away from Calcutta, or sisters who finally relinquish responsibility for alcoholic younger brothers, these characters are somehow redeemed by their courage to face the day, as typical and terrifying as any other." Melissa Anderson, "Time Out New York"

[Lahiri s] stories are quiet, deliberate, setting one foot down in front of the other, then exploding with a secret, an encounter, a clash. Quietly, then, they lay back down, leaving the reader astir in their unnerving calm. Lahiri s [work], however, is rife with characters that are larger than the Bengali immigration experience, experiences larger than mere discontent. She s an artist of the family portrait. The eight stories in Unaccustomed Earth have an emotional wisdom weightier than in Lahiri s first collection, "Interpreter of Maladies," which won the Pulitzer Prize, and they contain a more nuanced tightness than her neo-Chekhovian first novel, The Namesake....Her new stories are better, stronger evidence of a writer pushing herself to a deeper level.... Old-fashioned in her approach, contemporary in her subject matter, Lahiri anchors these stories in character.... In [ Unaccustomed Earth and Only Goodness ], new life brings hope to broken families, and mothers awash in tears must carry on when the baby cries. [Lahiri] captures these moments with clarity and grace, a tangible knowledge of how souls twist in the wind.... The Hema and Kaushik stories, a trilogy that closes the book, prove the most haunting. The characters, Lahiri has said in interviews, lived with her for a decade, and their presence feels imprinted in these pages as if by letterpress.... In these three stories, Lahiri experiments with point of view. Forsaking her usual third-person narrator, she goes for the intimate whispers of first person. If one felt like a fortunate fly on the wall in previous stories, now the effect is to sit in between the beats of her characters heartaches. Leonora Todaro, "The Village Voice"

Lahiri writes largely about the American-born children of middle-class Indian immigrants, but in doing so, she also nails the mores of affluent, educated Americans, both Indian and non-Indian. [ Only Goodness ] presents a very believable picture of a relationship s slow decline in a very recognizable urban setting. And that s precisely what Lahiri does well.... Lahiri is a literary heir of Anthony Trollope in her ability to capture the way we live now. And that s a testament to the way society has changed ... but also to Lahiri s skill at evoking this world empathetically and unironically. Adelle Waldman, "The New Republic"

Eight stories [that] are longer than those in [Lahiri s] previous collection but just as absorbing and beautifully written.... Wonderful prose and masterful delineation of character. [Unaccustomed Earth] fulfills every expectation of her mastery of the prose medium....Unaccustomed Earth" "is [Lahiri s] customary style at its very best. Nancy Schapiro, "St. Louis Post-Dispatch"

Beautifully crafted ... Lahiri navigates the interlocking themes of identity and assimilation, familial duty and grief ... employ[ing] quiet language to reveal debilitating truths....Unaccustomed Earth" "showcases some of Lahiri s best work and reinforces her claim to our literary high ground." Tamara Titus, "The Charlotte Observer"

Eagerly awaited is a phrase too often used to hype a new work. But in the case of Lahiri, it s accurate. Lahiri again delicately writes of the Bengali immigrant experience, perfectly communicating the tension between the ideals of transplanted parents and the ones of their American children, in the short story format that made her so popular in the first place. Billy Heller, "The New York Post"

Poignant ... precisely rendered, elegiac.... Lahiri details with quiet precision the divide between American-born children and their Bengali parents. Yvonne Zipp, "The Christian Science Monitor"

Four stars.Beautifully rendered....Unaccustomed Earth explores the dilemmas faced by Bengali immigrants in the west, yet its appeal is universal. Lahiri takes the reader from Massachusetts to Italy to London to Thailand as her characters discover love, freedom and the heartbreak of leaving one family to create another. In the standout title story, a lawyer on maternity leave struggles with her mother s death and her own ambivalence toward motherhood. Only Goodness, about the complexity of loving an addict, contains a darkness that proves the author capable of leaving her usual realm, quiet domestic tragedy, for rougher waters. Reading her stories is hypnotizing like falling into a dream where colors are brighter, smells sharper and time moves more slowly than in real life. Danielle Trussoni, "People"

Lovely ... elegant, unsettling....Unaccustomed Earth is full of lost old-world parents and the modern marriages that can t quite replace them.... The saga of Hema and Kaushik is ... a masterfully written and powerful drama. Though Lahiri s characters construct sophisticated new identities for themselves, they are still irresistibly drawn to the reassuring traditions they ve abandoned. The past exerts a wicked pull, even (maybe especially) when you re all grown up and least expecting it. Jennifer Reese, "Entertainment Weekly"

[Jhumpa Lahiri is] a succinct realist writer in an era of attention-getting maneuvers. Stylistically, [there s] no genre bending, no comics-inflected supernaturalism, no world-historical ventriloquism, no 9/11 flip books. Just couples and families joining, coming apart, dealing with immigration, death, and estrangement. This is true of her debut short-story collection, Interpreter of Maladies (which won a Pulitzer in 2000); her novel, The Namesake (a best seller turned Mira Nair film); and her new book, Unaccustomed Earth eight mature stories each stretching almost to novella length.... What makes Lahiri s corner of the world seem so important, to her and to us? Maybe, for all the polish, it s the lack of ironic layering that tends to distance us from the tragedies chronicled in most literary fiction. Lahiri isn t afraid to make people cry.... Lahiri writes often of illnesses, failing marriages, and just plain loneliness, but thanks to her economy and mastery of detail, it never quite crosses over into the sentimental. Nor does it rely on the melodramatic twists that are staples of more middlebrow writers. Boris Kachka, "New York Magazine"

Jhumpa Lahiri already has carved out a distinctive literary niche ... her tales of Indians encountering contemporary American lives have resonated with a wide swath of readers. Unaccustomed Earth will only burnish that estimable reputation. It s an emotionally astute, character-driven assortment of stories that carry forward and deepen the themes she s explored in her previous works.... Her prose style is graceful, elegant, understated. Like Alice Munro, Lahiri is adept at handling chronology, ranging backward and forward in time, compressing lifetimes into a single artfully crafted paragraph. Relish this gorgeous collection. Harvey Freedenberg, "Bookpage"

Emotionally intricate and exquisitely crafted, Unaccustomed Earth" s" descriptions of love and conflict are rendered through the lives of people whose traditions include arranged marriages and cultural cohesion. Much of the older generation seeks to honor tradition, and the younger seeks to explore personal choices.... One of Lahiri s great strengths is to concentrate myriad conflicts into individual scenes where cultural, romantic and family betrayal coalesce. Like Jane Austen, Lahiri is brilliant at describing ambivalent emotions.... Stories of star-crossed lovers are not new, but when handled by Lahiri in the book s second section, Hema and Kaushik becomes a nearly perfect example of the linked story form. The stories are so richly detailed in their accounting of time, and so socially layered, that the meeting feels convincingly like destiny.... Masterful. John Holman, "Paste"

Ferociously good ... acutely observed.... In exquisitely attuned prose, Lahiri notes the clash between generations.... She is emotionally precise about her characters and the way the world appears to them, especially in the superb Hema and Kaushik [trilogy], which achingly reveals how two very unlikely families end up under one suburban roof, and how destiny entwines them forever. These are unforgettable people, their stories unforgettably well told. Elaina Richardson, "O, The Oprah Magazine"

A great book ... to move you. Whether American or Bengali by birth, Lahiri s protagonists valiantly walk a tightrope between personal choice and family expectation. Faltering or triumphant, each tugs at the heart. "Good Housekeeping"

[Lahiri] explores with her modulated prose a full range of relationships among her subjects. So thoroughly and judiciously does she use detail that she easily presents entire lives with each story. These are tales of careful observation and adjustment.... Most moving is the final trio of intertwined stories about loss and connection. "The Atlantic"

Dazzling.... [Lahiri s] comparisons with literary masters such as Alice Munro are well-earned. In these eight exquisitely detailed stories, Lahiri is less interested in painful family conflicts than in the private moments of sadness that come in their aftermath. In the outstanding title story, a woman struggles to reconnect with her father and to accept how he has changed since her mother s death. In A Choice of Accommodations, Lahiri writes refreshingly about an aging body.... Subtle and wise, Lahiri captures a universal yearning. Carmela Ciuraru, "More"

Lahiri s finely drawn prose makes [Unaccustomed Earth] feel less like reading and more like peering into the most raw, intimate moments of people s lives. "Marie Claire"

Lahiri has boasted an enviable literary career since nabbing the Pulitzer for "Interpreter of Maladies. "Her new story collection, Unaccustomed Earth," " should have no problem upholding her reputation.... Lahiri delves into the souls of indelible characters struggling with displacement, guilt, and fear as they try to find a balance between the solace and suffocation of tradition and the terror and excitement of the future into which they re being thrust.... [Unaccustomed Earth] further establishes her as an important American writer. Kera Bolonik, "Bookforum"

Lahiri s enormous gifts as a storyteller are on full display in this collection: the gorgeous, effortless prose; the characters haunted by regret, isolation, loss, and tragedies big and small; and most of all, a quiet, emerging sense of humanity.

Khaled Hosseini, author of A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner

Pulitzer Prize winning Lahiri returns with her highly anticipated second collection exploring the inevitable tension brought on by family life. The title story takes on a young mother nervously hosting her widowed father, who is visiting between trips he takes with a lover he has kept secret from his family. What could have easily been a melodramatic soap opera is instead a meticulously crafted piece that accurately depicts the intricacies of the father-daughter relationship. In a departure from Interpreter of Maladies," "Lahiri divides this book into two parts, devoting the second half to Hema and Kaushik, three stories that together tell the story of a young man and woman who meet as children and reunite years later halfway around the world. The author s ability to flesh out completely even minor characters in every story, and especially in this trio of stories, is what will keep readers invested in the work until its heartbreaking conclusion. Recommended for all public libraries. Sybil Kollappallil, "Library Journal"

The tight arc of a story is perfect for Lahiri s keen sense of life s abrupt and powerful changes, and her avid eye for telling details. This collection s five powerful stories and haunting triptych of tales about the fates of two Bengali families in America map the perplexing hidden forces that pull families asunder and undermine marriages. 'Unaccustomed Earth the title story, dramatizes the divide between immigrant parents and their American-raised children, and is the first of several scathing inquiries into the lack of deep-down understanding and trust in a marriage between a Bengali and a non-Bengali. An inspired miniaturist, Lahiri creates a lexicon of loaded images. A hole burned in a dressy skirt suggests vulnerability and the need to accept imperfection. Van Eyck s famous painting, "The Arnolfini Marriage, "is a template for a tale contrasting marital expectations with the reality of familial relationships. A collapsed balloon is emblematic of failure. A lost bangle is shorthand for disaster. Lahiri s emotionally and culturally astute short stories (ideal for people with limited time for pleasure reading and a hunger for serious literature) are surprising, aesthetically marvelous, and shaped by a sure and provocative sense of inevitability. Lahiri writes insightfully about childhood, while the romantic infatuations and obstacles to true love will captivate teens. Donna Seaman, "Booklist" (starred)

Stunning.... The gulf that separates expatriate Bengali parents from their American raised children and that separates the children from India remains Lahiri s subject for this follow-up to Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake.In the title story, Brooklyn-to-Seattle transplant Ruma frets about a presumed obligation to bring her widower father into her home, a stressful decision taken out of her hands by his unexpected independence. The alcoholism of Rahul is described by his elder sister, Sudha; her disappointment and bewilderment pack a particularly powerful punch. And in the loosely linked trio of stories closing the collection, the lives of Hema and Kaushik intersect over the years.... An inchoate grief for mothers lost at different stages of life enters many tales and, as the book progresses, takes on enormous resonance. Lahiri s stories of exile, identity, disappointment and maturation evince a spare and subtle mastery that has few contemporary equals. "Publishers Weekly "(starred) (January 28, 2008)

Lahiri extends her mastery of the short-story in a collection that has a novel s thematic cohesion, narrative momentum and depth of character.... Some of her most compelling fiction to date. Each of these eight stories ... concerns the assimilation of Bengali characters into American society. The parents feel a tension between the culture they ve left behind and the adopted homeland where they always feel at least a little foreign. Their offspring, who are generally the protagonists of these stories, are typically more Americanized, adopting a value system that would scandalize their parents, who are usually oblivious to the college lives their sons and daughters lead.... The stunning title story presents something of a role reversal, as a Bengali daughter and her American husband must come to terms with the secrets harbored by her father. The story expresses as much about love, loss and the family ties that stretch across continents and generations through what it doesn t say, and through what is left unaddressed by the characters.... An eye for detail, ear for dialogue and command of family dynamics distinguish this uncommonly rich collection. "Kirkus Reviews" (starred) (February 1, 2008)"

The New York Times Book Review (April 2008)

'Splendid . . . Reading her stories is like watching time-lapse nature videos of different plants, each with its own inherent growth cycle, breaking through the soil, spreading into bloom or collapsing back to earth.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1216 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (17 Aug. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002VQ7QBM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #22,918 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am not usually a reader of short stories, but this book defied many of my prejudices. I loved it. Jhumpa Lahiri's writing is beautiful. With just a few paragraphs, she can immerse you in a story so that you end up feeling as satisfied as if you've read an entire novel. She also has a wonderful eye for detail and a way of describing everyday events or objects so you feel that you've never really thought about them in that way before.

There are eight stories in this book. The final three feature the same characters but the others stand alone. However they are all quite similar in that they feature highly educated Bengali Indians living in the US and often in mixed race relationships. There are also similar themes that repeat: learning to move on after losing a loved one or the relationships between parents and their adult children.

While I enjoyed all of the stories in this book, I was particularly moved by the first (Unaccustomed Earth) and the last (Going Ashore). They are the two in which I felt the most involved and really cared about the characters. I felt somewhat detached from the others (hence the 4 star rating). However I still enjoyed them and I recommend this book without hesitation - do not let the fact that it's short stories put you off!
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Format: Hardcover
As a Third Culture Kid (TCK) myself, from India, I could completely relate to the characters, their feelings, behaviour, thoughts and relationship dynamics with others. There were traces of my father in Ruma's father; of both my parents in Sudha's parents. The most captivating sotires to me were Nobody's Business because of the simplicity and complexity of love reltaionships and Part Two - Hema and Kaushik's sotry.

H and K, unlike the characters in the other stories, are given longer to develop their love story. The reader lives through glimpses of their childhood, teen years and university life. All eventually leading to their professional lives where they come together and have a love affair. Even though one of them is living out of a suitcase and the ohter is engaged to be married.

Throughout the stories, Lahiri accurately captures the emotion and conflicts of Indian immigrants to the US and briefly to London. There is a melancholy underlying the characters and their various relationships with partners, friends, room-mates and parents as Lahiri brings out their longer to belong to someone or some place matched with their sense of detachment to people and places in different ways. In short, their book, like her first, is a must-read for every Indian immigrant and third culture kid out there.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read Jhumpa Lahiri's book before and this was a second read after some years. As is not unusual books by Indian authors are not generally stocked in English bookshops in UK....few English people know what masterly prose comes out of Indian authors including Amitav Ghosh, Kunal Basu and in a bygone era books by Tagore, Mulk Raj Anand, RK Narayan, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee to recollect a few....in the days before TV came to India there was nothing better than to slouch and read these books especially when the monsoons came with boiled monkey peaniuts in between the chapters! I first came across Jhumpa Lahiri whilst walking along the pavements of India where a pavement bookseller persuaded me to read this book....it was a bad print probably pirate and since I had all her books from Amazon.....and each is a treasure to read. Unaccustomed Earth is an apt title as first generation Indians try and fit into a completely different Western culture whilst clinging to their own customs and values and even imposing it on their western born and educated children. Such conflicts have been depicted by late Saed Jaffery in East is East rather hilariously! Most Indian people came to the West with the feeling of returning to India but eventually become a uncomfortable in either country always longing for home elsewhere! Thank you Jhumpa,
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am so pleased I found this author, originally discovered with another title as a Kindle deal of the day. Of course, I had heard of her previously, just never got round to reading anything. Interesting characters, global challenges, good observations, and the combination of background academia, New England (okay, Seattle gets a nod too), India and London keep my interest as they are all areas with which I have some connection.
And I have recommended her books to colleagues who also seem to have been bitten by the bug too.
This title is a series of novellas, different, but with a thread running through them about family (and extended family) tensions and observations. The characters are convincingly real and I actually feel as if I would get on with quite a few of them in real life and can see parallels in my own life (despite not experiencing the cultural intrigues of the characters).
An easy, yet thought provoking, book. Perfect for holiday reading, tube or train commuter reading: I read most of this one in unseasonably sunny London weather in my backyard, glare free on the Kindle.
Go out and buy......
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Format: Paperback
Jhumpa Lahiri, winner of the Pulitzer Prize with her book The Interpreter of Maladies, continues to have one of modern fiction's most powerful voices.
The eight stories in her present book do not disappoint at all. They are wonderfully structured and are filled with acute psychological observations, eloquent writing and detailed descriptions. The main themes are about family secrets and relations. In one of them, there is the story of a widower who has a mistress and who prefers to keep it a secret from his daughter, in another, a married woman who falls platonically in love with a friend, in another, a sister who introduces her brother to alcoholism, in another, the story of a teen who cannot accept the father's new wife, etc.
Lahiri's stories of exile, identity, disappointment, bitterness, relations and maturation are brilliant and extremely realistic. Her language is aesthetically marvelous.

Joyce Åkesson, author of Love's Thrilling Dimensions and The Invitation (amazon.com)
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