Posts tagged as short stories

What a Notable! Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

September 08, 2009 by PatLeach

Now THIS was the kind of book I'd been seeking, one that had me scheming about how to get back to it, even when I really should have been doing other stuff.

"Unaccustomed Earth" is on this year's American Library Association Notable Books list. It's a collection of short stories, set in contemporary America, about young people who are of Bengali descent. Typically, the stories explore issues of having two cultures to bridge, of finding love in those circumstances, of staying true to the best in one's upbringing.

Apparently, I'm one of the last people to find out about Jhumpa Lahiri; she won the Pulitzer Prize for "The Interpeter of Maladies." I was amazed by how many people to whom I've mentioned this book (and I've mentioned it to a LOT of people) have already read it, or have it on their bedside tables.

What makes these stories so good? One, the characters are so well-drawn. Two, the endings are hopeful in sometimes unexpected ways. Three, the language is so good that I didn't even notice it. Four, she observes people so well. Five, the cultural issues are fascinating.

Thanks to the Notable Books committee for bringing this excellent book to my attention. I'm grateful.  Have you read it already?  What did you think?



Tagged in: Notable Books, Good Reads, short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri,
Comments: 2

Another Notable--Olive Kitteridge

June 08, 2009 by PatLeach

So far, "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout may be my favorite from this year's Notable Books List.  It also won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Olive Kitteridge is a character in each of these short stories, set in a small town in Maine during the late twentieth century.  Olive stars in some of the stories, but barely walks through other ones.  She's a teacher, and so in a position to know many people.  Strout describes her as physically large and awkward.  Socially, she often says the wrong thing and finds herself stoking her own resentment when people disappoint her.

Strout makes the most of the short story.  Each one seems to answer a "what if" question.  What if the mother of the groom hears the bride laughing at her?  What if a man on his way to commit suicide is called on to save a drowning woman?  What if a little girl must keep her older sister's secret about running away?  She turns a sharp eye to social interactions, not looking away when cruelty enters where kindness would help.  And yet, people figure out how to connect with each other and get on with life.  In some ways, Strout reminds me here of my favorite short story writer, Alice Munro.

I read this book more like a novel, straight through.  I usually find, though, that I enjoy short stories more when I take some time to savor one before moving on to the next.

To whom would I recommend this?  To people who like short stories, and to some who say that they don't.  To people who find small town life interesting, and to people who love everyday life described well.

Have you read this?  What did you think?



Tagged in: Notable Books, Good Reads, Olive Kitteridge, short stories,
Comments: 4


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