Thursday, November 07, 2013

"The Lowland", a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri's newly published second novel and her books of short stories and first novel all share the same fluent, literate, and direct writing style.  She writes as if the story is her sole purpose and any flaunting of her capabilities is not necessary.  One critic has written that she writes "such translucent prose that you almost forget you're reading."

"The Lowland" follows the life of a family that starts in what would be a middle class family in India without the same material quality that would exist in the U.S.  The family is one of a reliably employed low key father with a mid-level government job, a traditional and opinonated mother, and two sons who do particularly well in high school and colleges focused on science and math.  The family is splintered as the older son goes to the state of Rhode Island in the United States for post- graduate studies and the younger more outgoing son becomes a teacher and also gets involved in anti-government politics and actions.  Though unarmed he is eventually killed by police in front of their house at the age of 24.

That is of course only the beginning of the book, and there is much to follow as it traces the path of the parents, a child born in the U.S., and particularly the son in Rhode Island, who is the primary linkage of all that follows and is bound together with his life challenges, emotions, family issues, and resilience.

This is another welcome piece of writing for anyone with an appreciation for Lahiri, or even beyond that for any thinking person who has ever been a child, ever had a child, lived through the growth changes and relationship changes with a child turned adult, lived through the loss of loved ones, experienced family stress or loneliness, experienced the ebbs and flows of a marriage, so that's to say just about everyone can find ways to identify with this book if the style fits their interest.  The distinct cultural issues are there, but the emotions are ubiquitous.  There is certainly an ongoing pall of sadness in this book but it is neither overwhelming nor does it block out the either the real or reflective upbeat moments and times.  It is indicative of what life is really like, underscoring the long term permanence that is at times unexpected in choices focused on an immediate time period.  

So opinion here is consider going to your local library, independent bookstore, or if necessary Amazon and picking up the latest addition to Jhumpa Lahiri's impressive body of literary fiction.   


Anonymous Anonymous said...

While still a compelling book, this latest one seemed to be a little more scattered and less tightly structured than her previous work. Optimism was much less prevalent that just acceptance at best.

3:40 PM  

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