dutchessabroad, April 24, 2008 (view all comments by dutchessabroad)
Jhumpa Lahiri has the uncanny ability to introduce the reader immediately to what the story is all about and still have you reading breathlessly wondering what's going to happen. How will the characters solve the predicament they're in? What more will the author surprise me with? In one of the stories from the Interpreter of Maladies, A Temporary Matter, Lahiri takes the reader into all the rooms of a well kept home in which the heart stopped beating after the stillbirth of a first baby. The woman and the man each have been in mourning for six months, moving further and further away from each other, when City Light announces an hour of darkness each night for a week. During this hour the couple tells each other secrets they've never shared before. Lahiri's answer to Sherazade's 1000 nights perhaps, she has both woman and man do the talking. Each getting equal opportunity to save their marriage and their own sanity. The darkness, shared meals and intimacy brings them closer together again after the loss had driven them apart. The main characters may be of East Indian decent, the story is universal, about love, loss, grief and recovery, painted in the vibrant colors of the author's cultural heritage.
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Shoshana, December 21, 2007 (view all comments by Shoshana)
The general malady relentlessly presented in this short story collection is tension in relationships--particularly marital relationships, but others as well. The more specific malady is the existential and pragmatic shock of the Emergency--the 1947 partition of Pakistan--and the later secession of Bangladesh. These sociocultural and political ruptures form the nominally-explicit back story that informs the protagonists' emotional wariness and disillusion.
The best stories are about contemporary Indian-American families, either alone or interacting with Euro-Americans or other South Asians. The less-successful stories take place away from this context and are more forced and less interesting ("A Real Durwan" is an example ). At her best, Lahiri conveys a great deal of historical information (with which most U.S. readers are unlikely to be unfamiliar) with very little exposition and in a way that is relevant to the characters' conflicts. Read the collection in order as it hangs together well as a sequence. Read with Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things for a very different tone, and with the first few chapters of Pankaj Mishra's Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond for dryly rendered but informative history.
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Serene, August 6, 2007 (view all comments by Serene)
This is an easy read, but a complex one, as well. I read it on the plane from Tokyo to San Francisco, and it made me feel like a citizen of the world.
A friend in India tells me that Lahiri's books are considered to be the romanticization of India that one would expect from an American of Indian descent. "Kind of like cowboy movies," he said, and I knew instantly what he meant.
Still, this is a darn good cowboy movie, if you ask me.
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Melissa Kinsey, March 17, 2007 (view all comments by Melissa Kinsey)
What I like best about Lahiri's writing is that it is unforced. There don't seem to be any tricks or hidden intentions. She writes about what she knows -- being an Indian immigrant -- honestly and with a gentle but deep insight.
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Houghton Mifflin Company -
by Publishers Weekly,
"Lahiri's touch in these nine tales is delicate, but her observations remain damningly accurate, and her bittersweet stories are unhampered by nostalgia."
by Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times,
"[Lahiri] announces herself as a wonderfully distinctive new voice....She is a writer of uncommon elegance and poise...a precocious debut."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[P]olished and resonant....Moving and authoritative pictures of culture shock and displaced identity."
by Mary Ellen Quinn, Booklist,
"One of Lahiri's gifts is the ability to use different eyes and voices. Readers who enjoy these stories should also appreciate the work of Bharati Mukherjee and G. S. Sharat Chandra."
by USA Today,
"Dazzling writing....Simply put, Lahiri displays a remarkable maturity and ability to imagine other lives....[E]ach story offers something special. Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies will reward readers."
by Laura Shapiro, Newsweek,
"Lahiri's language is uncluttered; she's sparing with metaphor, and the riches accumulate unobtrusively."
by New York Newsday,
"[A]side from her eloquence, there are two things...that make this a stunning literary debut. One is her spectactular ability to portray characters who are unassuming....The other is her talent for making stories featuring these same characters remarkably suspenseful."
by Caleb Crain, The New York Times Book Review,
"[Lahiri] breathes unpredictable life into the page, and the reader finishes each story...wishing he could spend a whole novel with its characters. There is nothing accidental about her success; her plots are as elegantly constructed as a fine proof in mathematics."
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