I’m aware that Jhumpa Lahiri isn’t fashionable these days, but her stories weren’t built to be fashionable – ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ is about a dad who goes to stay with his daughter and then, like, he mows the lawn. When I first read it years ago, I was struck by two things – first, Lahiri’s even-handed, neutral narration and second, the sheer amount of detail about domestic lives. Both these things would suggest something beyond boring but instead, they make way for real depth of emotion. There’s bravery in being able to go full pelt for forty pages with the interactions of two or three people in suburban Seattle. I have to admit, I’m not sure how it would hold up to a revisit but when I first read it, almost fifteen years ago, I found it incredibly impressive.
First published in Unaccustomed Earth, Knopf/Bloomsbury, 2008. Excerpted here in the New York Times