Thursday, July 03, 2008

Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri was a book club pick. It’s a collection of nine short stories, each touching on the experiences of immigrants or first-generation Americans. It won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2000, as well as a PEN/Hemingway award. Lahiri is also the author of The Namesake, which was made into a movie (pretty faithful to the book and a good movie) released a year or two ago.

Lahiri's work is acclaimed for its depiction of Indian culture and the Indian immigration experience. This short story collection, though, offers more than just that. Each story illustrates a situation in which a person’s loved one failed to be loving, and instead a stranger or someone with no spousal/familial obligation was able to provide love, understanding, appreciation or intimate connection. I think it’s a common phenomenon that people fail the people they’re supposed to be closest to (though they may be able to rise to the occasion for others), and Lahiri explores it beautifully.

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