Although all of the stories in Unaccustomed Earth feature characters who are immigrants and first-generation Americans of Indian descent, they are about a lot more than that. They are about the common problems of all people.
In the story “Unaccustomed Earth,” Ruma grieves over the loss of her mother while her father fears she is making the same life for herself that embittered his marriage to her mother. In “Hell-Heaven,” a girl observes her traditional mother’s infatuation with a young graduate student in light of her mother’s detached marriage with her father. Amit and his wife Megan try to create a romantic weekend while attending the wedding of a woman Amit once had a crush on in “A Choice of Accommodations.” The best of the stories are the last three, interlinked, about two people who meet each other several times at significant junctures of their lives.
Lahiri’s stories speak to us deeply. With details of life and human behavior so finely observed, they become stories about characters for whom we care.
I am generally a novel reader, because short stories often feel to me as if a lot is missing. But Lahiri’s gift is for saying so much in so few words. You find yourself pondering her stories and characters long after you stop reading. They reveal a profound insight into the human heart.