Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Mike’s review

I know the last one of these I put up was a disappointed in Lahiri one and I feel like I need to put this one up now to conclude the previous thoughts.

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I don’t remember this much telling in other Lahiri books (specifically The Namesake and Interpreter Of Maladies). I remember vivid descriptions that brought page to life.

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Detachment throughout. Narrator is rarely the true protagonist in a story. Which is intellectually interesting, but makes for a distance between reader and story that feels void of emotion.

Otherness super prevalent in final story by using “you” pronoun. Distressing to be this “you.” Rich, finicky, pain in the ass. Strange to be forced to combine my actual life experiences with this “you” as filtered through “I,” the actual narrator of the story.

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I feel like “Unaccustomed Earth” isn’t the best title for this, but instead should make reference to a search for self or otherness in the title.

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I can’t finish this. Halfway through “Hema and Kaushik” and I give up. A third chapter that switches narrative perspectives and there’s no emotion here for me to feel. Kaushik’s outburst at his step-sisters seems kinda insane and forced and I can’t keep going. Rich white people problems but the characters are Indian.

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Went to GoodReads to see if maybe I misunderstood. First great review: I’m not sure if the reviewer actually read this book, talking about tsunamis and shifting landscape of earth, which aren’t in this book.

Here, Ian summarizes my thoughts better than I can, “Unaccustoed Earth zeroes in on the least interesting dimension of [Lahiri’s] usual subjects: the interior monologues of full assimilated, second-generation Indian-Americans who are ungratefully dissatisfied with their lives of privilege. Her formally melancholic [emphasis mine] insight and pungent descriptions [again, mine] have given way to stale, distant whiffs of unpleasantness that lack gravitas and empathy.”

So, is he also a white male? Are our perspectives skewed because of who we are? Probably. But I don’t aim for this blog to be a cultural criticism because I’m not smart enough to pull that off. I’m only here to talk about my perspective. And with these last couple books, one of the author’s I gushed over has managed to totally turn me off. And that’s sad and I don’t know if that’s because I’m more closed-off than before or if I wouldn’t have liked these books when I was 22, either. But I don’t like them now. I’d love to hear you explain why you like them if you do, though.

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