Guest Author - Siobhain M Cullen
Short stories from around the world span the ocean from India to America in Jhumpa Lahiri's top-selling new book of gritty truthful stories about an immigrant family trying to settle in a new and shocking world in the US - a world that is very different from what they have been used to. In the book 'Unaccustomed Earth,' the eight short stories from other cultures give readers a fly-on-the-wall honest impression of the cultural hurdles and soul-searching that need to be overcome over two generations as a family travels around the world to the US.Pleasingly, this book is one of several free books on offer on the list of Buy Two Get Third Free Summer Reading Paperback books from Barnes and Noble.
In the first story I read, second generation Indian American and 'young professional' Roma wrestles with her conscience about the merits of having her recently widowed Dad come to live with her and her new family in a big US city. She also wrestles with her conscience over another matter, more to do with the heart - her decision to leave her legal profession in order to stay home with her toddler and newly expected second baby leaving husband Adam to 'bring home the bacon' for their classy new executive home. He has recently mentioned that even that does not seem to make her happy any more...
This book recommendation mainly rests on the sharply observational skill of the writing on human nature, especially from a female point of view, and from the nature of the perspective. Jhumpa Lahiri gives us a unique vantage point over second generation Indian acclimatization as she straddles two worlds - one is the traditional Indian model where there would be no question as to the plans for a newly widowed head of the family - an elderly father who no longer had a mainstay companion and wife to cook his meals would of course move in with his daughter and her family and he would be welcomed and even honoured in her husband's home.
Yet, from the opening sentences of the short story, Roma's father is notable more for his absences both in person and in attention, than for his presence, so now there is an awkward distance between father and daughter.His terse, cool holiday postcards say it all in the way they don't say anything!
The other world that Roma's persona inhabits is high-tech, fast-paced and go-getting. Families are spread over great distances and communicate via email and social networking. Few wives or daughters stay home all day to serve up dinners to fathers or fathers-in-law who may expect them on the table regular as clockwork at six o'clock.
Roma is on a 'sticky wicket' here because she no longer has a reason for her father not to stay - she has chosen to give up a well-paid professional career and to buy an executive house that now has plenty of unused bedrooms. And husband Adam is starting to enjoy the freedom of solo business class journeys - travelling unencumbered by the eight suitcases for four people it used to take to get them from Seattle to Calcutta on trips around the world to visit his in-laws....