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Making my way to "Earth"

Interpreter Spent part of the weekend re-reading Interpreter of Maladies; it's been so long since I read it, and allegedly I'll be talking to Jhumpa Lahiri in a couple of weeks (her new collection of stories, Unaccustomed Earth, comes out April 1). Now this isn't a surprise but: What a truly fine collection of stories.

Duh, Connie, you say.The book won the Pulitzer Prize. But it is shocking to remember this was Lahiri's first published work. And I believe I read it several years ago right after I finished Andrea Barrett's Servants of the Map, which had blown me away, and so while I really liked Interpreter I was distracted by the Barrett stories.

The title story is wonderful, but the one that still gets me is the collection's first story, A Temporary Matter, about a husband and wife enduring an hour of darkness each night while repairs are made to an electrical line in their neighborhood. It's heartbreaking. That's all I'm going to say. One's heart also breaks and expands over the young Indian woman having an affair with a married man in Sexy, and the young couple bickering over what to do with the Christian religious statues they keep finding in their new home in This Blessed House. I've always said my favorite Lahiri is her great novel The Namesake, but now I just don't know anymore.


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I remember reading "Interpreter" just after it came out in paperback. I was on a long flight by myself, returning from a business trip. The book took me out of my reality and placed me in the world of Indian immigrants. I couldn't have imagined I would respond to a world that is so foreign. That is the power of her writing.


She's a beautiful writer...I've read the first two stories in the new book, and they are also good. The first one is set in Seattle! It brought tears to my eyes. She's so adept at reflecting the conflicting relationships between different generations, all that's left unsaid so often. That's why I liked The Namesake so much as well.


I am nearly in tears right now thinking about that first story. I've read it maybe four or five times now, and it still gets me. I happened on the book at the gone-but-not-forgotten Liberties bookstore on Las Olas years ago and was blown away by it. And The Namesake...all I have to do is see the preview for the movie and I get choked up. I loved the movie, loved the book.


The Namesake was one of the best films of last year, I thought...it really brought the story to life. I loved the actors who played the parents, especially the father. So understated. I wept loudly through the entire screening.

And yes, A Temporary Matter...the ending is just brutal. I was struck again, rereading it, that it's also horribly true. Heartbreaking.

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