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Unaccustomed Earth cover art

Unaccustomed Earth

Written by: Jhumpa Lahiri
Narrated by: Sarita Choudhury,Ajay Naidu
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Publisher's Summary

From the internationally best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a superbly crafted new work of fiction: eight stories that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand.

In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father, who carefully tends the earth of her garden, where he and his grandson form a special bond. But he's harboring a secret from his daughter, a love affair he's keeping all to himself.

In "A Choice of Accommodations", a husband's attempt to turn an old friend's wedding into a romantic getaway weekend with his wife takes a dark, revealing turn as the party lasts deep into the night.

In "Only Goodness", a sister eager to give her younger brother the perfect childhood she never had is overwhelmed by guilt, anguish, and anger when his alcoholism threatens her family.

And in "Hema and Kaushik" - a trio of linked stories and a luminous, intensely compelling elegy of life, death, love, and fate - we follow the lives of a girl and boy who, one winter, share a house in Massachusetts. They travel from innocence to experience on separate, sometimes painful paths, until destiny brings them together again years later in Rome.

©2008 Jhumpa Lahiri (P)2008 Random House, Inc.

What the critics say

"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)
"The author's ability to flesh out completely even minor characters in every story...is what will keep readers invested in the work until its heartbreaking conclusion." ( Library Journal)

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Stories of Bengali/American immigrants

I saw this book on several "best" lists from last year so I picked it up without any idea what it was about at all. Turns out it's a collection of short stories mainly featuring Bengali Indians and the Americans who interact with them. The stories are all focused around personal stories of changing relationships - between children and parents, between spouses, between families. The author has a descriptive and evocative but very readable writing style, bringing out little important details that make the feel of these lives and households seem very real. Most of the stories are stand-alones but the characters in the last three are interconnected and cover a passage of time from childhood to marriage through the eyes of two different characters. All of the stories are interesting to read but overall left me with a slightly bleak feeling as if the author is illustrating that nobody is ever completely happy and happiness is always fleeting - probably true, of course.

Overall it was an interesting read and the author is a good writer, but the themes were so narrow and repetitive in many ways (immigration, relationships, family, same races and classes of people usually even in the same settings) that I didn't find it as interesting as, say, a Margaret Atwood collection where you really never know what's going to happen next or where the next story will take you. (Also, probably since I am in neither Bengali or American, perhaps I didn't identify all that much with the settings.)

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