Jhumpa Lahiri’s lastest book, The Lowland, tells the story of two brothers from Calcutta and how the decisions that they make and the secrets that they keep will affect the next three generations of their families in India and America. I continue to be fascinated with her interpretation of two divergent societies, Indian and American, and how the cultural differences and similarities play out in the lives of her characters.
“Graceful and steady . . . devastatingly precise . . . Lahiri [writes with] ruthless clarity . . . The Lowland continues Lahiri’s career-long study of the tendrils that grow up in canyons [between characters], that intertwine and bind people to one another through responsibility and dependency, love and guilt. [Lahiri is] anchored firmly as a great American writer.” —Jennifer Day, Chicago Tribune
“Lahiri’s finest work so far, at once unsettling and generous, bow-string taut . . . shattering and satisfying in equal measure. I expect The Lowland will prove her most controversial book to date, for its plot grows out of [a] Maoist-inspired uprising in the late 1960s. Though Lahiri has put [the] politics in, she also wants us to concentrate on the spectators instead of the struggle around the gun. This book is a determinedly apolitical writer’s attempt to deal with an explosive subject. And though she deals more fully here than ever before with a specifically Indian subject, though the book both begins and ends in Calcutta and what happens there will forever mark its characters’ lives, The Lowland is written in an American vein; she seamlessly inserts new people—new manners, mores, material—into a traditional American form. What counts in The Lowland isn’t the fate of society but the individual life and the chance or pursuit of individual happiness; Turgenev among others would recognize the problem she defines. The prose . . . provides something like a continuous present, pointillist and monumental at once, as though carved . . . Uncompromising and yet clear—carries a note of accessible distinction.” —Michael Gorra, The New York Review of Books