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Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Unaccustomed Earth", tales about the matters of life

Unaccustomed Earth- Jhumpa Lahiri
I was impressed with the stories of the Pulitzer Prize's winner "Interpreter of Maladies", so when the new short fiction collection of Jhumpa Lahiri arrived I was really looking forward to read them. The reviews of "Unaccustomed Earth" were outstanding -chosen by the New York Times Book Review as the number one book of 2008- so expectations were high.

And during the first part, these expectations are met. Five powerful stories where families, love, and identity are dissected with a clinic eye and a masterful prose. The brilliant character of Ruma's father on the tittle story, the mind-blowing "A Choice of Accommodations" and "Only Goodness", the echoes of the best American short fiction writers, using the suburbs as the place to hide and expose the frustrations, guilts, angers and miseries of modern day lives, but adding the "Indian factor" as another element, bringing a deep reflection on the lives of two separated cultures, and how people try to cope with both sides. 

But the disappointment comes in the second half of the book. The trilogy of stories under the tittle of “Hema and Kaushik" is nowhere near from the previous five. Instead of the subtleties and imploded emotions, everything is explained to the detail -the narrator voice changes to the first person- as if we were in front of an epic Hollywood blockbuster: love and fate, from the innocence of childhood to the experienced couple facing their destiny, while they are part of the real and most dramatic situations of the global world -if it sounds a bit like "Babel" to you, you are close to get the idea-. 

Overall, a solid book in its first half, with a couple of extraordinary stories, sadly ruined by the last 100 pages. I would strongly recommend reading Jhumpa Lahiri. On the five stories of "Unaccustomed Earth" and "Interpreter of Maladies" you'll find an amazing writer. But I would also suggest to skip the last part of this book, for your own good.

SCORE: 5,75/10

Here's the link to the complete article (in Spanish) from the website I collaborate with:
"Tierra Desacostumbrada", familia, amor e identidad

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