Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
I love this woman's writing and, sadly, I have now read everything she has in print. It seems like she sits down at a table, picks up a pencil, and effortlessly becomes the person she is writing about. What a talent.
Like her first book, Interpreter of Maladies, which won a Pulitzer Prize, this is another collection of short stories—eight of them, but not so short at 333 pages. The final three stories are connected using both POV and a narrator, and IMO are the best of the book.
Lahiri's territory is familiar: Wealthy and highly-educated Bengali immigrants to America, their children who quickly assimilate American culture and spurn tradition, and the frequent clashes that result between the two generations.
Are her stories all the same, then? Of course not. That would be like saying that all stories about Irish and Chinese immigrants are the same. While Lahiri's characters may all be from Calcutta and tend to settle in and around Boston, each one is a unique individual—and it is this uniqueness that is her fodder. One becomes alcoholic and his sister blames herself; another cannot get over the untimely death of his mother; and a third, a widower father, is afraid and ashamed to tell his daughter about his secret lover and companion.
Overall, I think this is a better book of stories than Interpreter, and I give it a full five stars.
[This book will be released in trade paper on April 7, 2009.]