Interpreter of Maladies
Reflections: This beautifully-written collection of short stories portrays various “maladies” of the human condition, such as loss, loneliness, and isolation. As the title suggests, Lahiri interprets these maladies for her readers. And she is absolutely brilliant. The emotions raised by each story are so profound, and so deep, that you can't help but feel them at the core of your own being. As with any collection, a few stories stood out:
- A Temporary Matter – A couple mourns the loss of a stillborn baby, and begins sharing secrets with one another during a power outage. Their grief, and the void between them, is palpable.
- Sexy – Miranda, an American woman, has an affair with a married Indian man. At the same time, her office mate consoles her cousin in India, whose husband has left her for a young English woman. Miranda meets the cousin on a visit to the US and, while babysitting her son, has a revelation about her own romantic relationship.
- Mrs. Sen’s – An Indian woman has recently arrived in the US, and provides after-school care for a boy while her husband teaches at a local university. She is isolated and lonely, is afraid to drive a car, and longs for friends and comforts of home.
- The Third and Final Continent – A young man, educated in London, comes to the US to work at a university. He is recently married, and waiting for his wife’s immigration papers to be processed so she can join him. For six weeks he rents a room from Mrs. Croft, a 103-year-old woman whose daughter visits once a week to deliver food. He contemplates the woman’s infirmity and isolation, as well as his own emotional uncertainty about life as a married man.
After each of these stories, I had to set this book aside and allow the feelings to wash over and through me. Despite this, it was difficult to put down and even more difficult to let go of when finished. A wonderful book, and very deserving of the Pulitzer Prize. ( )