I’ve been working on Juhmpa Lahiri’s The Lowland for the past week or so. I’m normally a slightly faster reader, but Lahiri’s work kind of demands that you give it your full attention. She’s one of those envy-inducing writers who bring the most simple things to life with gorgeous, lyrical writing:
They found a thick tree that had fallen, the tangled roots exposed. They saw the drenched ground that had given way. The tree seemed more overwhelming when it lay on the ground. Its proportions frightening, once it no longer lived.
The Lowland begins in the Tollygunge area of Calcutta, with two brothers, Subhash and Udayan. Born just fifteen months apart, they grow up more like twins. As they come of age in the ’60s, the bolder Udayan becomes caught up with the growing Naxalite movement and the quieter Subhash moves on to the US to further his studies in oceanography. When Udayan is killed by the police, Subhash is left to pick up the pieces. While the story is told mostly from Subhash’s point of view, it is fallout from Udayan’s political involvement that dictates the course for the rest of the family.
Lahiri’s bread and butter is family and the Indian/American culture clash – something I hope she doesn’t ever deviate too far from, because she works those themes so very well. Her other works include:
- Interpreter of Maladies – This collection of nine short stories won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000.
- The Namesake – Her first novel, published in 2004, follows the Ganguli family from the immigration and assimilation of Ashima and Ashoke to the first generation experience of their children. It’s one of my favorites.
- Unaccustomed Earth – Lahiri’s second collection of short stories, further exploring Indian Americans and the blending of cultures.