Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Unaccustomed Earth, Finale

The second half of the book comprised three short stories that involved Hema and Kaushik, two acquaintances throughout life. Both Hema and Kaushik are second-generation children, however while Hema stays in the United States for much of her life, Kaushik's parents move back to India for awhile, and then return again.

The first story takes place when Kaushik and his family move back to the U.S. when he's 16 and stay with Hema's family until they find a new home. It's told from Hema's point of view. The second story, "Year's End," is told by a 21-year-old Kaushik about his struggles with his current family situation. The third story jumps 20 years ahead when, by happenstance, the two meet again.

In the podcast interview with Lahiri that I listened to this week, she talks about how Hema and Kaushik have been with her for at least 10 years. She had them in her head, but was unsure how to tell their story. She knew she wanted to tell a story of a family moving back to India, then back to the U.S. She also wanted to tell a story that took a similar form as letter-writing, which these three stories do. After she wrote her first story about Hema and Kaushik, she said it was the only time she felt there could be a sequel - that she wasn't done telling their story. This is how she ended up with a trilogy at the end of Unaccustomed Earth. Each is a story in its own right - but together, they're beautiful.

As Lahiri was talking about Hema and Kaushik, I could tell she loved them. More so, maybe, than any of her other characters. Perhaps because they'd been with her for so long. This definitely came out in her writing. I loved these stories - I was moved once again. Why did I read this book so fast? For one, I couldn't put it down. But now I wish I could read it all over again.

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