Saturday, July 8, 2017

Unaccustomed Earth

Unaccustomed EarthUnaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These are all slice of life short stories, telling the simple, complicated stories of the people around us. Most of the stories feature recently immimigrated Bengalis, but rather than focus on the actual immigrant experience, most deal with the second generation experience, the children who grew up away from home and now must balance parental traditions and expectations with new cultures and freedoms. The other theme that seemed prevalent was the idea of being alone, how one can seek for solitude at one time, and then, when it is forced upon you, seek to escape it. Using these themes as the base, Lahiri shows how despite our different details (culture, language, education, etc.) we all struggle with the same complexities of life.

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 How freeing it was, these days, to travel alone, with only a single suitCase.

 Like his wife, Ruma was now alone in this new place, overwhelmed, without friends, caring for a young child, all of it reminding him, too much, of the early years of his marriage, the years for which his wife had never forgiven him.

 In the hotel they had vowed not to leave each other’s side, but she was miles away from him

 He felt the same resentment that often seized him after he cleaned up the kitchen and bathed Maya and Monika and put them to bed, and then watched television alone, knowing that he had seen his children through another day, that again Megan had not been a part of it. She lived in the apartment, she slept in his bed, her heart belonged to no one but him and the girls, and yet there were times Amit felt as alone as he had first been at Langford. And there were times he hated Megan, simply for this. 

Wasn’t it since Monika’s birth that so much of his and Megan’s energy was devoted not to doing things together but devising ways so that each could have some time alone, she taking the girls so that he could go running in the park on her days off, or vice versa, so that she could browse in a bookstore or get her nails done? Ad wasn't it terrible, that he looked forward to those moments, so much so that sometimes even a ride by himself on the subway was the best part of the day? Wasn’t it terrible that after all the work one put into finding a person to spend one’s life with, after making a family with that person, even in spite of missing that person, as Amit missed Megan night after night, that solitude was what one relished most, the only thing that, even in fleeting, diminished doses, kept one sane?

 empty her pockets of the pretty coins that would soon buy her nothing.

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