I got this book from a Little Free Library. I planned to leave five books and take one. Nice try. I ended up with three.
Jhumpa Lahiri introduces this collection of eight short stories with a two-sentence quotation from Nathaniel Hawthorne:
“Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.”
Never mind the stories. Lahiri could have stopped right here and I would have had plenty to think about. I was unable to determine what book contained this statement. Doesn’t sound like The Scarlett Letter. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations didn’t help me.
Last weekend, I attended the funeral of a neighbor. His family has been in this area for around five generations. I could see and even envy the value, strength and warmth of strong family ties. Sometimes I wish I had relatives in this town, this county, this STATE, for goodness sake! It’s hard work to keep in touch with a geographically dispersed family. To my children, cousins and aunts and uncles were a treat, not their daily bread. I wish they had been able to spend more time with their grandparents.
On the other hand, the world is changing. For better or worse, globalization is here. Parents (especially upper middle class parents) may choose to nudge their children towards out-ot-state colleges or international work and study experiences.
I’ve seen all kinds of family patterns. One is “up and out”. My family took this approach, sending my sister and me away to college, telling us we had four years to get ready for life “on our own”. Return to our hometown was barely mentioned. We thought it likely to be “too expensive”. When I had the option spend summers in Europe, it was encouraged, even though, financially, it was only a “break even” proposition. But I think my parents would have felt hurt and sad if I had settled down overseas.
I only read two stories from Lahiri’s book. Each ending surprised me. Her characters are compelling and their lives seem difficult. I can’t decide whether to continue with the stories or try one of Lahiri’s novels. She has published books in Italian and Marathi. The international approach to life is plainly here choice.
1 thought on ““Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri”
Clearly she presents much for us to think about, even in just the title and intro. Your description of our growing up is right on! Thanks for sharing!