A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri is well known for her stories of people transplanted from India to America, their struggles in straddling two cultures, belonging to neither. Her precision, emotional wisdom and luminous prose have won high praise from critics and readers. For those who have read and enjoyed her two volumes of stories (Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth) and her previous novel (The Namesake), her new novel, The Lowland, will not disappoint.
The lowland is in a Calcutta suburb, an area that floods during the monsoon season, and beside which two brothers have grown up as close companions. Once they reach adulthood in the late 1960s, however, they head off in different directions. When the younger brother is killed in the lowland as a result of his underground revolutionary activities, the older brother Subhash, who has been working on an advanced degree in Rhode Island, feels a responsibility to the pregnant widow Gauri. Against the wishes of his parents, he marries her and takes her with him to safety in the U.S.
How do two strangers forge a family life together? Is Subhash up to the task of raising his brother’s daughter as his own? Should they tell her about her revolutionary father? How have Subhash’s actions affected his relationship with his parents in India? The reader is skillfully and intimately drawn into this complex emotional terrain, following the family as Subhash and Gauri try to adapt to America and to one another while developing their professional careers, and as their daughter adjusts to finally learning the truth. The tale is tragic, but the novel is beautifully written, the characters are thoughtfully drawn, and the ending has just enough lift to feel hopeful. Lahiri’s abundant skills as a writer make it a pleasure to read.
Review by Nancy