Unaccustomed Earth Book Review

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Jhimpa Lahiri plays upon and wrote about the most vital human emotions: life, death, self discovery and love and in doing so, Lahiri wrote a truly unforgettable novel that examines the life of a family over several generations. Unaccustomed Earth is divided up into eight stories and as each story unfolds they reveal layers of life and culture in their context. Somewhere buried beneath the Bengali family’s wild displays of emotions and cries for attention there’s a story about finding acceptance and moving on and looking past the rooted cultural boundaries. Along with the theme of acceptance the book also has an overflowing theme finding one’s self, not just spiritually but accepting one’s identity in a new land. All these characters possess a desire, an urge to discover themselves, even in the most unorthodox mannerisms and the discovery happens over time and generations. While Unaccustomed Earth runs rapid with themes of culture, the book takes the reader to a time where America represented somewhere where communities were active and tightly boned, a time where one could build a new identity and explore freedom. With that freedom, each story has a character or family member torn between their culture and new chances America can offer. The characters face a turmoil of acceptance between their old heritage and trying to conform to norms of a western civilization. Early on the reader sees that Ruma (a lawyer) is starting to become a mirror image of her mother taking the path she once did in her homeland, “Growing up… moving to a foreign place for the sake of marriage, caring exclusively for children and a household — had served as a warning, a path to avoid. Yet this was Ruma’s life now” (11). While there is freedom in her choice to follow her husband and be a house wife, Lahiri metaphorically tells the reader through this passage that while America offers freedom, it’s not necessary to make drastic changes but to be true to one’s own self. In that same page the...
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