This book is divided into two parts; the first comprises of 5 separate stories containing the eponymous story Unaccustomed Earth. The second part contains three interrelated stories of Hema and Kaushik who gets separated when they are young only to cross paths later in life.
All the stories revolve around the individuals dealing with a sense of displacement from their native land and at the same time trying to fit in a foreign land. Diaspora fiction.
The stories focus on the lives of second-generation Indian Bengali immigrants who no longer share the same traditional values as their parents and wants to carve their own niche which does not adhere to what their parents might have done.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing is very simplistic. She captures the emotions and makes the reader feel her characters. She navigates the personal lives of her characters in such a way that makes one start caring about them because the situations seem so real and relatable.
The settings in all her stories are issues of diaspora depicted through mundane, domestic lives but she does not deconstruct it towards a solution. She lets us know very subtly the extent to which the struggles can go when one is constantly trying to explore the dimensions of life at the same time while holding on to a culture.
The book starts with the eponymous story Unaccustomed Earth which is the best story of the entire collection. It ends on a note at which I am left awestruck, perplexed and basically unaware that such an ending can exist.
This was just the reaction of the first story as the book plummeted down for me. Either the characters were repetitive or the situations and the stories failed to appeal to me. However, the context rather than the characters kept me going.
I have read The Namesake by the same author and loved it more. I would not say it is a must-read but if you like to try short fiction and realistic reads, then definitely pick it up. Let me know in the comments what do you think of this book.