From the back of the book, via Goodreads:
These eight stories by beloved and bestselling author Jhumpa Lahiri take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand, as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life. Here they enter the worlds of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers. Rich with the signature gifts that have established Jhumpa Lahiri as one of our most essential writers, Unaccustomed Earth exquisitely renders the most intricate workings of the heart and mind.
Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of beautifully written stories about an interesting collection of characters. Some of them come and go in just one story, others come back throughout the book.
I was amazed at how well I could get to know the people in the space of one story, probably because they were so character-centric.
All of the stories look at the experience of people of Indian descent– usually featuring the children of immigrants, balancing the traditions of their parents with the current reality of their life in America. There is also a recurring theme of infidelity and broken marriage and the end of relationships, looked at from many different angles. There is the more general question of growing up and breaking away from your family (or having them break from you).
The themes are universal, and the biggest problem with the book was leaving behind each set of characters.
Production: It was nice when the narrators switched, giving a clear indication that I’d moved on to a new story. Overall a well done production.
Audio vs. Paper: I don’t think you can go wrong any way you read Unaccustomed Earth. This is a wonderful book.
Book Club Notes
I read Unaccustomed Earth for my Book Club L.
Six of us met to discuss it. Five of us thought the book was wonderful.
The remaining person really loved the first story, and kept waiting for those characters to return. They never did, and this got in the way of her enjoyment of the rest of the book. I suggested she read The Namesake, Lahiri’s equally good novel, where you spend the entire book on one story and one set of charaters.
We enjoyed talking about the themes common to the stories, the characters and situations we identified with, and discussed what we would have done if we were in Sudha’s shoes.
Several people were worried about trying to discuss a book of short stories, but I really don’t think it was a problem. I recommend Unaccustomed Earth for book clubs.