Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri


Audiobook.  This is an uncommonly appealing book.  Once again Jhumpa Lahiri tells stories of characters she clearly loves.  She tells us about their shortcomings without making us dislike them and we are not left with a discouraging view of humankind.

The title Unaccustomed Earth comes from a quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Custom House, to the effect that human nature (like potatoes) will not flourish if too many generations are planted in the same earth.  The speaker says that his children, if he can influence events, will strike their roots in unaccustomed earth.  Jhumpa Lahiri explores the effects of having to strike your roots in a new place.  The connections between the India-born parents and their American children is a common thread.

The contrast of loving interactions between generations and their great distance and inability to communicate is in evidence in the story of a father who comes to visit his married daughter for a week.  The mother had died years earlier, but she was the one who made the connections, said what needed to be said.  Their time together makes the father and daughter happy and they each see the other in a new light, but the vast unbridgable difference remains.  

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