Unaccustomed Earth

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A Sophisticated Work
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Reader reviewed by Mairi

The title story of this anthology appears first, and it involves a young mother named Ruma who, when confronted with her widowed father's love affair, struggles to find out just how Indian she really is. It's a long story, almost sixty pages, but is closely followed by the much shorter "Hell-Heaven," which is as thoughtful a piece as the title would indicate- my eyes welled up, not from the emotion but from the sheer beauty of it. The third story is "A Choice of Accommodations," which, like "Unaccustomed Earth," tells of a person rethinking what he has long taken for granted.

I ordinarily read science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction, which straddles the border between genre and literary fiction, so I consider myself lucky to have stumbled upon Jhumpa Lahiri's work at all. I read The Namesake for a book club once, and though nothing in particular appealed to me about it, I was fascinated by Lahiri's writing style and decided to read this anthology, which was simply gorgeous. People who read genre fiction tend to associate literary fiction with a slower style, but Unaccustomed Earth is faster paced than Battle Royale- the stories carry you along, and there is no good place to stop.

Lahiri deserves to be more widely read than she is (which is saying something) because she is, quite simply, one of the most sophisticated writers I have ever read.

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