Jhumpa Lahiri's first collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer Prize. After writing a full-length novel (The Namesake), Lahiri has returned with a second short story collection. Unaccustomed Earth is comprised of 5 short stories and a novella. And it is absolutely fabulous.
Most of the stories are set in the US, and the Indian immigrant characters are often in relationship with white Americans. Each one had strong emotional impact. The title story was one of the most moving. In it, an Indian widower visits his adult daughter, who lives in Seattle. He chooses not to tell her that he has found a new partner, and she is afraid he plans to move in with her and her young family. The man's love for his small grandson is very touching; his love for her is demonstrated indirectly through a garden he creates during his visit. Through small day-to-day acts, he shows his daughter a side of him that was not visible while she was growing up.
The novella, Hema and Kaushik, takes place over three separate time periods and follows an Indian immigrant boy and girl from the time they meet as children, through young adulthood, and into middle age. Lahiri is expert at conveying the loss and emptiness deep within each character, and building the reader's commitment to these characters in a very short number of pages.
I intentionally apprpoached this work one story at a time, reading during my lunch hour and savoring each story over the next 24 hours. When the novella -- and the entire book -- came to an end, all I could do was take a very deep breath and marvel at Lahiri's talent. Unaccustomed Earth is the most delicious fiction I have read in a very long time; a must-read. ( )